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Vic. GEN. 
Wcstmonasterii, die i6a Junii, 1944 







Sometime Prior of the Carthusian Monastery 
of Miraflores 











CHAPTER I. Describes how the Lord began to awaken her soul in childhood 

to a love of virtue and what a help it is in this respect to have good parents . i o 

CHAPTER II. Describes how these virtues were gradually lost and how 

important it is in childhood to associate with people of virtue . . 12 

CHAPTER III. Describes how good companionship helped to awaken 
desires in her and the way in which the Lord began to give her light con- 
cenung the delusion under which she had been suffering . . .17 

CHAPTER IV. Describes how the Lord helped her to force herself to take 
the habit and tells of the numerous infirmities which His Majesty began 
to send her ........ ao 

CHAPTER V. Continues to tell of the grievous infirmities which she suffered 
and of the patience given her by the Lord, and of how He brings good 
out of evil, as will be seen from an incident which happened to her in the 
place where she went for treatment. ..... 26 

CHAPTER VL Describes all that she owed to the Lord for granting her 
resignation in such great trials; and how she took the glorious Saint Joseph 
for her mediator and advocate; and the great profit that this brought her. 32 

CHAPTER VTL Describes how she began to lose the favours which the Lord 
had granted her and how evil her life became. Treats of the harm that 
comes to convents from laxity in the observance of the rule of enclosure . 37 

CHAPTER VIII. Treats of the great benefit which she derived from not 
entirely giving up prayer lest she should rum her soul. Describes the 
excellence of prayer as a help towards regaining what one has lost. Urges 
all to practise it. Says what great gain it brings and- how great a benefit it 
is, even for those who may later give it up, to spend some time on a thing 
which is so good ....... 48 


CHAPTER IX. Describes the means by which the Lord began to awaken PAGE 
her soul and to give her hght amid such great darkness, and to strengthen 
the virtues in her so that she should not offend Him . . -54 

CHAPTER X. Begins to describe the favours which the Loid granted her 
in prayer. Explains what part we ourselves can play here, and how im- 
portant it is that we should understand the favours which the Lord is 
granting us. Asks those to whom she is sending this that the remainder 
of what she writes may be kept secret, since she has been commanded to 
describe in great detail the favours granted her by the Lord . . 57 

CHAPTER XI. Gives the reason why we do not learn to love God perfectly 
in a short time. Begins, by means of a comparison, to describe four degrees 
of prayer, concerning the first of which something is here said. Trxis is 
most profitable for beginners and for those who are receiving no consola- 
tions in prayer ....... 62 

CHAPTER XII. Continues to describe this first state. Tells how far, with 
the help of God, we can advance by ourselves and describes the harm, 
that ensues when the spirit attempts to aspire to unusual and super- 
natural experiences before they are bestowed upon it by the Lord . . 70 

CHAPTER XIII. Continues to describe this first state and gives counsels 
for dealing with certain temptations which the devil is sometimes wont 
to prepare. This chapter is very profitable . . . .74 

CHAPTER XTV. Begins to describe the second degree of prayer, in which 
the Lord grants the soul experience of more special consolations. This 
description is made in order to explain the supernatural character of these 
consolations. It should be most carefully noted . . . .83 

CHAPTER XV. Continues speaking of the same subject and gives certain 
counsels as to how the soul must behave in this Prayer of Quiet. Tells 
how there are many souls who attain to this prayer and few who pass 
beyond it. The things touched herein are very necessary and profitable . 88 

CHAPTER XVI. Treats of the third degree of prayer and continues to 
expound very lofty matters, describing what the soul that reaches this 
state is able to do and the effects produced by these great favours of the 
Lord. This chapter is well calculated to uplift the spirit in praises to God 
and to provide great consolation For those who reach this state . . 96 

CHAPTER XVII. Continues the same subject, the exposition of this third 
degree of prayer Concludes her exposition of the effects produced by it. 
Describes the hindrances caused in this state by the imagination and the 
memory . . . . . . . .100 

CHAPTER XVIII Treats of the fourth degree of prayer. Begins to describe 
in an excellent way the great dignity conferred by the Lord upon the soul 
in this state. This chapter is meant for the great encouragement of those 
who practise prayer to the end that they may strive to reach this lofty 
state, which it is possible to attain on earth, though not through our 
merits but by the Lord's goodness. Let it be read with attention, for its 
exposition is most subtle and it contains most noteworthy things . .105 

CHAPTER XIX.~Continues the same subject. Begins to describe the effects 
produced in the soul by this decree of prayer. Exhorts souls earnestly not 
to turn back, even if after receiving this favour they should fall, and not 
to give up prayer. Describes the harm that will ensue if they do not follow 
this counsel. This chapter is to be read very carefully and will be of great 
comfort to the weak and to sinners . . . . . 1 1 1 


CHAPTER XX. Treats of the difference between union and rapture. PAGE 
Describes the nature of rapture and says something of the blessing that 
comes to the soul which the Lord, of His goodness, brings to it. Describes 
the effects which it produces This chapter is particularly admirable . 119 

CHAPTER XXI. Continues and ends the account of this last degree of 
prayer. Describes the feelings of the soul in this state on its return to life 
in the world and the light which the Lord sheds for it on the world's 
delusions. Contains good doctrine . . . .130 

CHAPTER XXII. Describes how safe a practice it is for contemplatives 
not to uplift their spirits to lofty things if they are not so uplifted by the 
Lordj and how the path leading to the most exalted contemplation must 
be the Humanity of Christ. Tells of an occasion on which she was herself 
deceived. This chapter is very profitable . . . .136 

CHAPTER XXIII. Resumes the description of the course of her life and 
tells how and by what means she began to aim at greater perfection. It 
is of advantage for persons who are concerned in the direction of souls 
that practise prayer to know how they must conduct themselves in the 
early stages. The profit that she herself gamed thereby . 145 

CHAPTER XXIV. Continues the subject already begun. Describes how 
her soul profited more and more after she began to obey, how little it 
availed her to resist the favours of God and how His Majesty went on 
giving them to her in increasing measure . . . .152 

CHAPTER XXV. Discusses the method and manner in which these locu- 
tions bestowed by God on the soul are apprehended without being heard 
and also certain kinds of deception which may occur here and the way to 
recognize them. This chapter is most profitable for anyone who finds him- 
self at this stage of prayer because the exposition is very good and contains 
much teaching . ..... 156 

CHAPTER XXVI. Continues the same subject. Goes on with the descrip- 
tion and explanation of things which befell her and which rid her of her 
fears and assured her that it was the good spirit that was speaking to her . 1 66 

CHAPTER XXVII. Treats of another way in which the Lord teaches the 
soul and in an admirable manner makes His will plain to it without the 
use of words. Describes a vision and a great favour, not imaginary, granted 
her by the Lord. This chapter should be carefully noted . . .169 

CHAPTER XXVIIL Treats of the great favours which the Lord bestowed 
upon her, and of His first appearance to her. Describes the nature of an 
imaginary vision. Enumerates the important effects and signs which 
this produces when it proceeds from God. This chapter is very profitable 
and should be carefully noted . . . . . .178 

CHAPTER XXIX. Continues the subject already begun and describes 
certain great favours which the Lord showed her and the things which 
His Majesty said to her to reassure her and give her answers for those who 
opposed her ........ 187 

CHAPTER XXX.- Takes up the course of her life again and tells how the 
I^prd granted her great relief from her trials by bringing her a visit from 
the holy man, Fray Peter of Alcantara, of the Order of the glorious Saint 
Francis. Discusses the severe temptations and interior trials which she 
sometimes suffered . . ... . 194 


CHAPTER XXXI. Treats of certain outward temptations and representa- PAGE 
tions made to her by the devil and of tortures which he caused her. 
Discusses likewise several matters which are extremely useful for people 
to know if they are walking on the road to perfection . . . 204 

CHAPTER XXXII. Tells how the Lord was pleased to cany her in spirit 
to a place in heU which she had merited for her sins. Describes a part of 
what was shown her there. Begins to tell of the way and means whereby 
the convent of Saint Joseph was founded in the place where it now is . 215 

CHAPTER XXXIII. Proceeds with the same subject the foundation of 
the convent of the glorious Saint Joseph. Tells how she was commanded not 
to continue it, how for a time she gave it up, how she suffered various 
trials and how in all of them she was comforted by the Lord . . 223 

CHAPTER XXXIV. Describes how about this time she had to leave the 
place, for a reason which is given, and how her superior ordered her to 
go and comfort a great lady who was in sore distress. Begins the descrip- 
tion of what happened to her there, of how the Lord granted her the great 
favour of being the means whereby His Majesty aroused a great person 
to serve Him in real earnest and of how later she obtained help and pro- 
tection from Him. This chapter should be carefully noted . . 232 

CHAPTER XXXV. Continues the same subject the foundation of this 
house of our glorious Father Saint Joseph. Tells how the Lord brought it 
about that holy poverty should be observed there and why she left that 
lady, and describes several other things that happened to frer , . 241 

CHAPTER XXXVI. Continues the subject already begun and describes 
the completion of the foundation of this convent of the glorious Saint 
Joseph, and the great opposition and numerous persecutions which the 
nuns had to endure after taking the habit, and the great trials and tempta- 
tions which she suffered, and how the Lord delivered her from everything 
victoriously, to His glory and praise ..... 248 

CHAPTER XXXVII. Describes the effects produced upon her after the Lord 
had granted her any favour. Adds much sound teaching. Says how we 
must strive in order to attain one degree more of glory and esteem it highly 
and how for no trial must we renounce blessings which are everlasting . 261 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. Describes certain great favours which the Lord 
bestowed upon her, both in showing her certain heavenly secrets and in 
granting her other great visions and revelations which His Majesty was 
pleased that she should experience. Speaks of the effects which these 
produced upon her and of the great profit which they brought to her soul 267 

CHAPTER XXXIX, Continues the same subject and tells of the great 
favours which the Lord has shown her. Describes His promises to her on 
behalf of persons for whom she might pray to Him, Tells of some out- 
standing respects in which His Majesty has granted her this favour . 279 

CHAPTER XL. Continues the same subject and tells of the great favours 
which the Lord has granted her. From some of these may be obtained 
most excellent teaching, and, next to obedience, her principal motive in 
writing has been, as she has said, to convey this instruction and to describe 
such favours as are for the profit of souls. With this chapter the narrative 
of her life which she has written comes to an end. May it ,be to the glory 
of the Lord. Amen ....... 290 

Letter written by the Saint to Father Garcia de Toledo when sending him her Life. 299 





RELATION L From the Convent of the Incarnation, Avila, in the year 1560. 306 

RELATION II* -From the Palace of Dona Luisa de la Cerda, in the year 1562. 314 

RELATION III. From Saint Joseph's, Avila, in the year 1563. 316 

RELATION IV. From Seville, in the year 1576. 319 

RELATION V. From Seville, hi the year 1576. 337 

RELATION VI. From Palcncia, in the year 1581. 334 



For some time after completing my translation of the Complete 
Works of St. John of the Cross, in the year 1935, 1 had no thought 
of preparing a similar edition of the works of that other great 
Carmelite, to whom he owed so much, St. Teresa. Even when 
the welcome given to the works of el Santo in their new dress 
showed what an unexpectedly and encouragingly large public 
there now was for this type of literature, it seemed to me that la 
Santa was on the whole sufficiently well served by the translations 
already in existence. But many readers of St. John of the Cross 
were not of this opinion: not all St. Teresa's works, they said, 
had been satisfactorily translated; not all of them, even, were 
based on an up-to-date Spanish text; and, in any case, there 
was ample room for a fresh, modern version of the Complete 
Works, made by a single hand, with footnotes of an elucidatory 
rather than a piously discursive type an edition, furthermore, 
which would facilitate individual study by providing compre- 
hensive indices. 

As time went on, this point of view was increasingly pressed 
upon me, and by a great variety of people. In Spain, a well- 
known Academician asked me when a complete St. Teresa was to 
appear in English; in the American South-west, a remote com- 
munity of Carmelite nuns whom I visited put the same question; 
in England, the remark became almost a commonplace. At last 
I began to reconsider the position. The only easily accessible 
versions of the Life and the Foundations were still, though they 
had been several times revised, essentially the versions made by 
David Lewis in 1870-1: as regards both language and inter- 
pretation they could certainly be greatly bettered. The Stan- 
brook Benedictines' translation of the Interior Castle, the Way of 
perfection and the Minor Works (in prose and verse) dated from 
the beginning of this century and were much superior to Lewis; 
yet since these volumes had first appeared P. Silverio de Santa 
Teresa had published his comprehensive and critical Spanish 
edition of the Complete Works, which would make it possible to 
add a good deal, especially in the Way of perfection, to what was 
already available. The most recently published translation, 
was that made by the Benedictines of Stanbrook of the Letters 
(4 vols, 1919-24). This excellent piece of work was unfortunately 
completed before P. Silverio's three-volume edition of the 


Letters appeared, and, though in 1927 its editors brought out an 
appendix to their final volume consisting of twenty-two letters 
and some fragments to which they had not previously had 
access, there is a good deal in P. Silverio's three volumes which 
it would be worth while to pass on to the English reader. None 
the less, the Letters presented the least urgent part of the 

After full consideration, I decided to undertake an edition of 
the Complete Works, publishing them all, in one series, as soon 
as might be, with the exception of the Letters, a new edition of 
which it seemed better to postpone for the present, since it would 
be strange if the recent years of upheaval in Spain did not lead 
to fresh discoveries. Accordingly, the work was begun in the 
summer of 1939, continued throughout the whole period of the 
War and is only now completed. 


It might be thought that St. Teresa so often colloquial and 
matter-of-fact in her language would be a great deal easier 
to translate than St. John of the Cross, but the truth is very nearly 
the exact opposite. There are certainly passages and phrases 
in St. John of the Cross which present the greatest difficulty, 
but they are relatively few: for all the sublimity of his teaching, 
his expression is, as a rule, crystal-clear, and at every turn the 
translator is assisted by his logical and orderly mind and by his 
great objectivity. Much of St. Teresa's work, on the other hand, 
is autobiographical narrative, and, even in that part of it which is 
not, every page bears the indelible impress of her forceful and 
vivid personality. In addition to the difficulty of interpreting 
that personality by means of a translation there are stylistic 
difficulties of a kind presented by few, if any, other Spanish 
writers of the first rank. As an appreciation of these two points 
will help us to a fuller understanding of the qualities of the work 
of St. Teresa, it will be worth our while to consider them in 
greater detail. 

i. To Spaniards there is no writer whose personality com- 
municates itself with greater immediacy and intensity than 
does that of St. Teresa and this both because of her almost 
complete disregard of the literary conventions and because in 
nothing that she wrote could her strong individuality ever be 
concealed. No translator could hope to convey that impression 
as fully and forcibly as do the original words, but he is not there- 
fore exempted from the obligation to convey as much of it as 
possible. In an attempt to do this, I have denied to her vigorous 


and pugnacious phrases the superfluous words in which another 
age might have clothed them. In such passages as these we can 
hear the authentic and virile note of a saint unlike any to be found 
in a stained-glass window: 

"Rest, indeed!" I would say. "I need no rest; what I need 
is crosses." 1 

We can make use only of a single cell what do we gain 
by its being very large and well built? What, indeed? We 
have not to spend all our time looking at the walls. 2 

"Oh, the devil, the devil!" we say, when we might be saying 
"God! God!" and making the devil tremble. Of course we 
might, for we know he cannot move a finger unless the Lord 
permits it. Whatever are we thinking of? I am quite sure I 
am more afraid of people who are themselves terrified of the 
devil than I am of the devil himself. 3 

If Thou wilt (prove me) by means of trials, give me strength 
and let them come. 4 

In rendering these and similar phrases I have had always in 
my mind the Teresa whom I have come to know through close 
contact with her over many years. A woman who made her 
decisions and then stuck to them regardless of the consequences : 

I was well aware that there was ample troubleln store for me, 
but, as the thing was now done, I cared very little about that. 5 

Who, if she ever thought she was afraid of the Inquisition, would 
"go and pay it a visit of (her) own accord." 6 And who counselled 
her nuns to be like herself: 

Strive like strong men until you die in the attempt, for you 
are here for nothing else than to strive. 7 

Again, St. Teresa has continual outbursts of sanctified common- 
sense, humour and irony. "I just laughed to myself" is a type 
of phrase which we continually meet in her work and she has left 
us an excellent specimen of her sustained laughter in the "Judg- 
ment . . . upon various writings". 8 She particularly disliked 
pretentiousness, even in what was good, and castigated it with 

*Life, Chap. XJII (Vol. I, p. 76, below). 

* Foundations, Chap. XIV (VoL III, p. 66, below). 

8 Life, Chap. XXV (VoL I, p. 165, below). 

4 Way of perfection, Chap. XXXII (Vol. II, p. 138, below). 

5 Life, Chap. XXXVI (Vol. I, p. 253, below). 
8 Life, Chap. XXXIII (VoL I, p. 226, below). 

7 Way of perfection, Chap. XX (VoL II, p. 86, below). 

8 Vol. Ill, pp. 229-31, below. 


those most effective weapons. Even into that sublime commentary 
on the Song of Songs entitled the Conceptions of the LoveofGod, creeps 
a delightfully shrewd description of the lady whose self-importance 
was so intimately mingled with her devoutness. She, and others 
like her, 

were saints in their own opinion, but, when I got to know them, 
they frightened me more than all the sinners I have ever met. 1 

Some of her stories are shot through and through with an allusive 
humour which it needs all one's ingenuity to render such are the 
accounts of her visit to Duruelo, with Fray Antonio sweeping out 
the porch and the depression caused in the business men who 
came with her from Medina by all those crosses and skulls 2 ; 
her efforts to address a great lady as befitted her rank and how 
she "got it wrong"; 3 poor Maria del Sacramento and her attack 
of nerves on All Souls' eve in the sparsely furnished convent at 
Salamanca 4 ; the group of devout ladies at Villanueva, only one of 
whom could read with any ease, who tried to recite their Office 
using different versions of the Breviary: "God will have accepted 
their intention and labour, but they can have said very little that 
was correct. 5 ' 6 No less apt to evade one are innumerable little 
natural touches which, in the English, if carelessly rendered, 
might easily pass unnoticed : 

I was . . . ashamed to go to my confessor ... for fear he 
might laugh at me and say: "What a Saint Paul she is, with 
her heavenly visions ! Quite a Saint Jerome ! " 6 

Blessed be Thou, Lord, Who hast made me so incompetent 
and unprofitable! 7 

I only wish I could write with both hands, so as not to forget 
one thing while I am saying another. 8 

From foolish devotions may God deliver us. 9 

And in her less frequent ironical passages, such as the description 
in the Way of perfection of how the devil invents "laws by which 
we (nuns) go up and down in rank, as people do in the world", 10 

1 Conceptions of the love of God, Chap. II (Vol. II, p. 375, belowl, 

* Foundations, Chap. XIV (Vol. Ill, p. 66, below). 

3 Way of perfection, Chap. XXII (Vol. II, p. 94, below). 

4 Foundations, Chap. XIX (Vol. Ill, p. 94, below). 

6 Foundations, Chap. XXVIII (Vol. Ill, p. 164, below). 

*Life 9 Chap XXXVIII (Vol. I, p. 267, below). 

''Life, Chap. XIII (Vol. I, p. 82, below). 

8 Way of perfection, Chap. XX (Vol. II, p. 88, below). 

9 Life, Chap. XIII (Vol. I, p. 80, below). 

10 Ibid Chap. XXXVI (Vol. II, p. 156, below). 


or the animadversions in the Life upon the niceties of worldly 
etiquette : 

the title "Illustrious " has to be given to a man who formerly 
was not even described as "Magnificent". 1 

The style here is so sedate that one has to pause for quite a long 
time before pressing the button lest the photograph should fail 
to catch the twinkle in the eye. 

Then there are the thousand touches which reveal the tempera- 
mentally great writer who never became, or wanted to become, 
a professional one the genius born, not made. This trait in 
herself St. Teresa never allows us to forget which is just as well 
for the translator who might otherwise conventionalize her. 
She is "stupid", "incompetent" and always busy with really 
"important" things like her spinning-wheel. She has "no learn- 
ing", suffers from "noises" in the head, a bad memory, and a 
"rough" and "heavy" style. It is useless for her to write any- 
thing on mystical theology, for "I am unable to use the proper 
terms". She cannot prevent herself from digressing if she feels 
like it: otherwise, her writing "worries" her. 2 "How I do let 
myself wander!" begins Chapter XXIII of the Way of per- 
fection. 3 As for the dates she quotes "you must always under- 
stand (them) to be approximate they are of no great 
importance." 4 And she scribbles at breakneck speed and with 
tremendous intensity, never revising her work nor even re- 
reading it to see what she has said last. 6 All the time the translator 
has to remember that he is dealing with this unique kind of 
woman it would be nothing short of a tragedy if he turned her 
into a writer of text-books. 

2. The second type of difficulty which should be referred to 
will perhaps be of greater interest to the student than to the 
general reader. In her "rough style", she says comfortingly at 
the end of Chapter XVI of the Way of perfection, her argument 
will be better understood "than in other books which put it more 
elegantly." 6 That no doubt was true, and may still be true, 
so far as the general trend of the argument is concerned, and 
one has constantly to be on one's guard, when there is some 
"elegant" word that exactly expresses her meaning, against 

*Life, Chap. XXXVII (VoL I, p. 266, below). 

3 Such references as these are to be found everywhere. See, for example, VoL 

I, p. 86, below. Vol. II, pp. 68, 234, 291, Vol. Ill, pp. xxii, xxiii. 

3 In the Escorial manuscript. See VoL II, p. 97 n. 6, below. 

* Foundations, Chap. XXV (VoL III, p. 132, below). 

5 Way of perfection, Chap. XIX (VoL II, p. 76, below). 

8 VoL II, p. 68, below. 


using it but it certainly does not apply to the exact sense of 
particular passages. Even Spaniards familiar with her books 
are continually baffled when asked the precise meaning of phrases 
which at first sight may seem perfectly simple. Vivid, disjointed, 
elliptical, paradoxical and gaily ungrammatical, the nun of 
Avila continually confounds the successors of those "learned men" 
to whom in her life she turned so often for enlightenment. One often 
has frankly to guess at her exact meaning, and half a dozen people 
may make half a dozen different guesses, none of which anybody 
can pick out as definitely correct. 

To illustrate these characteristics of her style, I have, for the 
sake of brevity, selected examples in which her meaning is^fairly 
evident. When to the difficulty of rendering her words without 
paraphrasing them is added that of deciding between several 
possible meanings it can be imagined how much the task is 

In the course of a discussion on melancholy in nuns, in the 
seventh chapter of the Foundations, St. Teresa observes that lack 
of discipline is often more to blame than temperament: 

Digo en algunas, porque he visto, que cuando hay a quien 
temer, se van a la mano y pueden. 

(Lit: I mean in some, for I have seen that, when there is 
whom to fear, they become docile and can.) 

This, in English, has to be expanded somewhat as follows: 

I know it is so in some; for, when they have been brought 
before a person they are afraid of, I have seen them become 
docile, so I know that they can. 1 

Again, in the Interior Castle (VI, viii), she has been considering 
how a person can be sure whether some vision is of Christ or 
of a saint: 

Aun ya el Senor, cuando habla, mas facil parece; mas el 
santo que no habla, sino que parece le pone el Senor alii 
por ayuda de aquel alma y por companfa, es mas de 

(Lit: Even now the Lord, when He speaks, (it) seems easier; 
but the saint who speaks not, but seems to have been placed 
there by the Lord for aid to that soul and for company, 
is more remarkable.) 

1 Vol. Ill, p. 39, below. 


Which means: 

When it is the Lord, and He speaks, it is natural that He 
should be easily recognized; but even when it is a saint, and 
no words are spoken, the soul is able to feel that the Lord is 
sending him to be a help and a companion to it; and this is 
(still) more remarkable. 1 

Then there are shorter phrases, couched in a staccato, almost 
telegraphic style, hard enough to translate without a weakening 
of their generally considerable force 

Con esto, mal dormir, todo trabajo, todo cruz! 
(Lit: With this, bad sleep, all trial, all cross!) 

And then, the scant sleep they get : nothing but trials, nothing 
but crosses! 2 

but quite devastating when the dipt phraseology makes one 
doubtful of the meaning. And there are words which St. Teresa 
uses in a sense entirely her own, and conjunctions which do not 
in the least mean whit they say e.g. "and" for "but" and 
vice versa, not to mention the conjunction que, which can stand for 
almost any other. 

One has also to watch for, and preserve, * the Saint's col- 
loquialisms. Even in talking with God, she tells us, she has 
a "silly way" 

in which I often speak to Him without meaning what I am 
saying; for it is love that speaks, and my soul is so far trans- 
ported that I take no notice of the distance that separates it 
from God. 3 

How much more unconventional, then, is she likely to be with her 
readers ! Not only in her modes of address, but in the introduction 
of everyday, semi-proverbial phrases, some of which are no 
longer in use in Spain and might be unintelligible did she not 
thoughtfully accompany them with an "as one might put it" or 
"as they say". It would not be hard to turn into current English 
slang such phrases as : 

They see that these things are considered, as one might say, 
"all right". 4 

1 Vol. II, p. 312, below. 

*I4fc Chap. XIII (Vol. I, p. 82, below). 

9 Life, Chap. XXXIV (Vol. I, pp. 235-6, bdow), 

*#*, Chap. VII (Vol. I, p. 39, below}. 


(I am) so peevish and ill-tempered that I seem to want to 
snap everyone up. 1 

We had not so much as a scrap of brushwood to broil a 
sardine on. 2 

So with her homely and vivid metaphors : the Christian making 
progress "at a hen's pace" or even "like hens with their feet 
tied"; his adversary the devil "clapping his hands to his head" 
in despair of ever vanquishing him; love finding an outlet and 
not being "allowed to boil right over like a pot to which fuel 
has been applied indiscriminately"; 3 worldly aids to devotion 
being of no more use to lean upon than "dry rosemary twigs" 
which break at the slightest pressure. 4 All these and there are 
hundreds of them enlivening her narratives and illumining 
her expositions can be so easily spoiled in translation. 

Another stumbling block is repetition, a practice to which 
St. Teresa was greatly addicted. Some of her repetitions of words 
are merely careless and clumsy as in her constant use of the 
word "great" 6 and these I have been content to indicate 
rather than reproduce every time they occur. When she repeats 
phrases it is generally for emphasis 

Oh, what terrible harm, what terrible harm is wrought . . . 
when the religious life is not properly observed ! 6 

and, except occasionally where our language necessitates another 
formula for the conveying of the effect, her phraseology can 
as a rule be reproduced as it stands. But often the same word 
is repeated in a different sense, sometimes so pointedly that it 
produces an obvious play upon the word's two or more mean- 
ings. Some of these usages cannot be conveyed in English; 
others are best translated freely with the point explained more 
fully in a footnote. But whenever possible I have rendered this 
characteristic Teresan trait quite literally: if it gives the reader 
a slight shock, that is probably what she often intended: 

How much more will anyone fear this to whom He has thus 
revealed Himself, and given such a consciousness of His 
presence as will produce unconsciousness! 7 

*Life, Chap. XXX (Vol. I, p 199, below). 

* Foundations, Chap. XV (Vol. Ill, p. 74, below). 

*Lifi, Chaps. XIII, XXXVII, XXVI, XXIX (Vol. I, pp. 75-6, 284, 166, 

191, below). 

4 Relations, III (Vol. I, p. 316, below). 
8 See, for a typical example, Life, Chap. XXXVIII (Vol. I, p. 270, below). 

life, Chap. VII (Vol. I, p. 39, below). ' 
7 Interior Castle, VI, ix (Vol. II, p 316, below). 


If I . . . used my unhappiness in order to serve God, it 
would serve me as a kind of purgatory. 1 

But . . . though my will is not yet free from self-interest, 
I give it to Thee freely. For I have proved, by long experience, 
how much I gain by leaving it freely in Thy hands. 2 

Alas that one cannot do more to give the English reader 
the unforgettable effect of intimacy with this woman of the 
sixteenth century still living and breathing in the twentieth 
as she writes in her own language! The fine shades of meaning 
which she creates with her untranslatable idioms, her love for 
inventing all kinds of diminutives, her characteristic metatheses 
and other forms of popular misspelling, her curious serni- 
phonetic transliterations of Latin texts, her long, shambling, 
breathless sentences, as common as her short sprightly ones, 
which for reasons of clarity one cannot avoid splitting up these 
make one feel that, when one has done everything possible, one 
has still done nothing. All I can say is that I have done my best. 

Those acquainted with the Spanish text may care to have 
a few notes on the renderings normally adopted for characteristic 
words and phrases. One of the Saint's most frequent exclamations, 
/ Vdlgame Diosf, which can express any emotion from playful 
exasperation to profound distress, is as a rule translated literally, as 
"God help me! " Occasionally where the context will not suffice 
to indicate the shade of meaning, it becomes "Oh, God!", 
"Dear God!" or even "Dear me!" The polite form of address 
Vuestra Merced is translated "Your Honour" (or sometimes 
merely "you") when applied to a layman and "Your Reverence" 
when used to a priest. The word letrados is rendered literally 
"learned men", though the type of learning to which it refers 
is invariably theological. The characteristic and rather subtle 
uses of the word honra ("honour", "reputation", "good name") 
are 'dealt with, as they occur, in foot-notes. Of terms used in 
specifically mystical passages, arrobamiento is normally translated 
"rapture"; arrebatamiento, "transport"; amortecimiento, "swoon"; 
elevamiento and levantamiento, "elevation"; embebecimiento, "absorp- 
tion"; and hablas, "locutions" (or, rarely, "voices"). Three 
words which St. Teresa by no means always distinguishes from 
one another are gustos, contentos and regalos, generally translated, 
respectively, "consolations,", "sweetness" (in devotion) and 
"favours", gustos being more substantial than the evanescent 
contentos and often contrasted with them. The verb regalar may 

1 Life, Chap. XXXVI (Vol. I, p. 252, below). 

* Way of perfection, Chap. XXXII (Vol. II, p. 135, below). 


run through the gamut "caress", "pamper", "indulge", 
"delight", "gladden" and "cheer"; and the singular sub- 
stantive regalo varies in the same way. Descanso can mean not 
only "rest" but something very much like "happiness", as also 
can consuelo ("comfort ") . Espiritu can refer to a person's particular 
spiritual condition or to his or her spirituality. Remedio is more 
often "help" than "remedy". For convenience' sake, St. 
Teresa's usage here being very elastic, I have called all religious 
houses for men "monasteries" or "friaries" and those for women 
"convents". To the word "soul" the neuter pronoun is applied 
unless it seems to be equivalent to "person". Where the Spanish 
gender is ambiguous, "she" is used only if St. Teresa appears 
to have a woman definitely in mind. 


Some idea of the principles which have guided me in the 
planning of this edition will be implicit in what has already 
been said. I have aimed at extreme Hteralness, and have seldom 
sacrificed this to smoothness and elegance of diction. In an 
attempt to present the text in the best and fullest form I have 
utilized all the manuscripts reproduced by P. Silverio; and 
particular care, as will be seen, has been devoted to the Way of 
perfection. The notes, greatly abridged from those of P. Silverio, 
whose discursiveness is not limited to his introductions, have been 
kept down to a minimum; 1 the index of persons 2 and places, 
at the end of the third volume, will be found to supply any 
apparent gaps in the historical annotations, while the subject- 
index makes cross-references dealing with the subject-matter 
unnecessary. One need not remind avowed Teresans, but it 
may be worth while pointing out to the general reader, that the 
best possible commentary on many of St. Teresa's ascetic and 
mystical passages can be found by using a subject-index to the 
works of St. John of the Cross. 8 So much autobiographical 
material is found in the Life and the Foundations and indeed in 
practically all the works that no biographical introduction has 
seemed necessary; a brief outline of the main events in St. 
Teresa's career, however, supplemented by references to the 
works, has been thought worth including. 

1 [All the footnotes to the text are P. Silverio's except where they are enclosed in 
square brackets, or where the contrary is stated. I have followed P. Silverio in not 
numbering the paragraphs of the text, as both he and I thought it advisable to do in 
the Complete Works of St. John of the Cross.} 

* [English forms of the Spanish names are used only for names of Saints.] 
3 Such a subject-index will be found in Vol. Ill, pp. 445-54 of my edition of th 
Complete Works. 


The style and tone adopted in the translation of the different 
works varies considerably, just as in the works of St. John of 
the Cross even more so, indeed, than there, for the Exclamations 
are much farther in this respect from the Foundations than is the 
Ascent of Mount Carmel from the Spiritual Canticle. But, except in 
the Exclamations and in parts of the Interior Castle and Conceptions, 
St. Teresa's style is more pedestrian and colloquial than that of St. 
John of the Cross, and this I have indicated by the use of more 
"modern" language, without, I hope, entirely destroying the 
flavour of a past age. The same remark, mutatis mutandis, applies 
to the Poems. 

St. Teresa's quotations from the Bible are, often inexact: my 
rule has been to give her own words, approximating them as 
nearly as possible to the text of the Douai Version 1 but never 
allowing her to say in English anything that she does not say in 
Spanish. Her mind was so completely immersed in Biblical 
phraseology 2 that it is sometimes hard to tell if she is consciously 
quoting at all. Where a Scriptural reference is given in a footnote 
it is to be understood that I think her to be making a definite 
quotation; and in the appropriate index it is these references 
only that will be found. 

It would have been attractive to have included a very large 
proportion of the numerous- documents printed by P. Silverio 
in his nine volumes, which throw so many sidelights on St. 
Teresa's life and times. But if this translation, like its predecessor, 
was to be compressed into three volumes there was only a very 
little space to spare, even when the introductions to the individual 
works were cut down, as they have been, to a minimum. I have 
therefore confined myself to translating a few outstanding docu- 
ments, making them as representative as possible. In order that 
the pages at my a ^posal for this purpose should be used to the 
best advantage, I aave occasionally omitted irrelevant passages 
or condensed their verboseness of expression, without, however 
(I hope), impairing their spirit. 


Chief among my acknowledgments are those to P. Silverio de 
Santa Teresa, the excellence of whose work I have had occasion 
to test again and again, and to the Benedictines of Stanbrook, 
who, holding exclusive copyright for the English translation of 
his edition, have most generously permitted me to make full use 

1 All footnote references are to this version. Where the numbering of chapters 
or verses in the Authorized Version differs from this, as in the Psalms, the variation 
has been shown in square brackets. 

1 Cf. her reference to the Bible in Ltfi> Chap. XXV (Vol. I, p 161, below). 


(Abbreviations: F= Foundations; LC.= Interior Castle; *LLife\ 
L'L=Letters; R= Relations, Roman numerals after F, I.C., L, 
R refer to chapters; Arabic numerals after LL, to the numbers 
of the Letters. The numerals in brackets after the name of the 
foundations record their chronological sequence.) 

I 5 1 5 (March 28). Birth of Teresa de (Cepeda y) Ahumada at 

1528. Teresa loses her mother. 

c. 1531. Enters Augustinian Convent of St. Mary of Grace, 
Avila, as a boarder. Stays there for eighteen months (L III) . 

1536 (November 2). Enters Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation, 
Avila, as a novice (Cf. p. 20, n.2., below. "It is forty years 
since this nun took the habit," wrote St. Teresa in 1576: 
R IV, p. 319, below). 

1537 (November 3). Professed at Convent of the Incarnation. 

1538 (Autumn: "before two years had passed": L V). Health 
gives way. Goes ("when the winter began") to stay with 
her half-sister, Dona Maria de Cepeda de Banientos, at 
the village of Castellanos de la Canada. On the way there, 
stays at Hortigosa with her uncle, Don Pedro de Cepeda, 
who gives her a copy of Osuna's Third Spiritual Alphabet. 

1539 (April-July), Undergoes treatment atBecedas. 

1539 (August 15). Attack of catalepsy, which leaves her helpless 
"for more than eight months " (L VI) . 

1540 (about Easter). Returns to Incarnation. An invalid till 
late in 1541: "This (illness) I suffered for three years" 
(L V). The effects of the paralysis remain till the summer 
of 1542 (L VI) and recur intermittently (L VII) till about 


1543 (December 24). Death of her father, Don Alonso Sanchez de 

c. 1555-6- Begins to think she is "sometimes being addressed by 
interior voices and to see certain visions and experience 
revelations" (R IV). 


c. 1556-7. Final "conversion" (after "nearly twenty years on 
that stormy sea " : L VIII : p. 48, below) . Cf. pp. 2 1, 56 n. i . 
First contact with the Society of Jesus ("after almost twenty 
years' experience of prayer": L XXIII). 

(1557. Visit of St - Francis Borgia to Avila (L XXIV).) 

1558. Experiences her first rapture (L XXIV) and perhaps 
(L XXVIII) an imaginary vision of Christ (usually dated 
January 25 or June 29-30, 1558. But a likelier date is 1560: 
see pp. 1 68, 179, 187, 189, below). 

Discussions begin about the foundation in Avila of a convent 
for Discalced nuns (R IV). 

1559. P. Alvarez becomes her confessor. Transverberation of her 
heart (L XXIX). 

1560. Makes a vow of greater perfection. 

1561. P. Caspar de Salazar comes to Avila (April). 

House for the first convent of the Reform bought in Avila 

1562-7. At St. Joseph's, Avila ("The most restful years of my 
life": FI). 


January-July. Stays with Dona Luisa de la Cerda at Toledo. 
June. Finishes the first draft of the Life. 

July. Brief (dated February) authorizing the foundation of St. 
Joseph's received from Rome on the night of her return to 
Avila. The Bishop is persuaded by St. Peter of Alcantara to 
sanction the foundation. 

August 24. Foundation of Convent of St. Joseph, Avila (1) 
August (to February 1563). "Commotion" in Avila (L XXXVI). 

(After August). Is commanded to write an amplified account of 
her life. 


(About March). Goes to live at St. Joseph's, Avila. 

July 3. Takes some further step (its exact nature not known) 
towards herself embracing the Reform. 

August 22. Is granted a patent to transfer, with three companions, 
from the Incarnation to St. Joseph's. 



August ai. The Nuncio confirms the above-mentioned patent. 


(? December). Greater part of the second and final version oi 
the Life written. 

Completes the Life and sends it, at the end of the year, to 
P. Garcia de Toledo (LL 3). 
At about this time, begins the Way of perfection. 


(About August). Is visited by Fray Alonso Maldonado. 


February 1 . Visit to Castile of the Carmelite General, P. Rubeo 

April. The General arrives (April n) at Avila and (April 27) 
visits St. Teresa, authorizing her to found further convents 
of the Reform, and later (August 14, from Barcelona) two 

August 15. Foundation of Convent at Medina del Campo (2). 

September-November. Remains at Medina till early November, 
During her stay there (? early in September) discusses -with 
Antonio de Jesiis and St. John of the Cross the foundation 
of the first monastery of the Reform (F III). 
In November, goes to Madrid and stays for a fortnight with 
Dona Leonor de Mascarenas. Thence goes to Alcala de 
Henares, consults P. Banez and stays till February 1568. l 


February. Visits Dona Luisa de la Cerda at Toledo. 

March (late in). Leaves for Malagon. 

April n. Foundation of Convent at Malagon (3) 

1 I.e., about six months after Maldonado's visit: cf. final words of F I (Vol. Ill, 
p, 4, below). 


May 19. Leaves Malagon for Avila. On the way, stays at 
Toledo in Dona Luisa de la Cerda's house, during her 
absence : (LL 6) . Visits the Marchioness of Villena at 
Escalona (LL 6). 

June 2-30. At St. Joseph's, Avila. Rafael Mejia offers her a 
house at Duruelo for use as a monastery. She leaves for 
Medina and Valladolid, calling at Duruelo on the way. 

August 10* Arrives at Valladolid. St. John of the Gross has 
accompanied her from Medina to Valladolid and stays 
there till September 30 (F XIII; LL 10). 

August 15. Foundation of Convent at Valladolid (4). 

October. The Valladolid nuns fall ill and go to stay with Dona 
Maria de Mendoza, who takes over their house and gives 
them a new one. 

(November 28. First Mass said at the Discalced monastery, 


February 3. The Valladolid nuns enter their new house. 

February 21. Leaves Valladolid for Medina, Avila, Madrid and 
Toledo, revisiting Duruelo on the way (F XIV; cf. LL 13- 


March 24. Arrives at Toledo (LL 19). (The King sends for her, 
believing her to be still in Madrid, after she has left for 

May 14. Foundation of Convent at Toledo (5). 

May 28. Receives a letter from the Princess of fiboli about a 
foundation at Pastrana. 

May 30. Leaves Toledo. In Madrid, stays for a week at a 
Franciscan convent with Dona Leonor de Mascarenas. 
Refuses to found a convent in Madrid (LL 294) . 

July 9. Foundation of Convent at Pastrana (6). (A monastery 
founded there on July 13.) 

July 21. Leaves for Toledo again. Stays there till August 1570. 

NOTE. The date of the Exclamations of the Soul to God is probably 
1569. Cf. Vol. II, pp. 401, below. 



(PJuly). Visits Pastrana and (August-October) Avila. On 
October 31 arrives at Salamanca. 

November i. Foundation of Convent at Salamanca (7). 


January 25. Foundation of Convent at Alba de Tormes (8). 

Mid-February. Leaves Alba. Goes to stay for some days with 
the Count and Countess of Monterrey. On March 29, is 
at Salamanca (LL 25) ; in May, by order of the Provincial 
of the Observance, P. Alonso Gonzalez, at St. Joseph's; in 
June, at Medina del Campo; in mid-July, at Avila. 

August-October. Prioress at Medina (LL 27). 
October 6. Goes from Medina to Avila. 

October 15 (to October 1574). Prioress of Convent of the Incar- 
nation, Avila (LL 2gff.). 


(Between May and September) . St. John of the Cross becomes 
confessor to Convent of the Incarnation, Avila. 


June 1 1 . Earliest extant letter (LL 45) written by St. Teresa to 
Philip IL 

August. Visits the Salamanca Convent for the transference of the 
community there in September. 

August 24. Begins to write the Foundations (at Salamanca: F VII). 
Writes about nine chapters: then stops on account of 
a numerous occupations". 


January. Leaves Salamanca. Spends some time at Alba de 
Tonnes, staying for two days in the house of the Duke and 
Duchess of Alba. (I.C., VI, iv: Vol. II, p. 289, below). 
Goes on to Medina and Avila. 


March. Travels to Segovia. 

March 19. Foundation of Convent at Segovia (9). 

Holy Week : April. Transfers Pastrana nuns to Segovia (F XVII) . 
Remains there till September 30 (F XXI; LL 62). 

October 6 (about). Returns to St. Joseph's, Avila, as Prioress. 
December (to January 1575). Visits Valladolid (LL 66-70). 


February. Travels from Avila, via Toledo, Malag6n and Almod6- 
var, to Beas. 

February 24. Foundation of Convent at Beas (10). 

March 10. Agreement for the Caravaca Convent signed (F 


Before May 11 (LL 71). First meeting with Gracian (F XXIV, 
R XXXIX). Makes vow of obedience to Gracian (R XL, 

May 18-26. Journey to Seville (Leaves, May 18; at Ecija, May 
23: R XL; arrives at Seville, May 26: F XXIV). 

May 29. Foundation of Convent at Seville (11). 

June 9. New licence for the Caravaca convent granted by Philip 

(May-June. Chapter-General of the Order, held at Piacenza, 
adopts harsh measures towards the Discalced Reform.) 

July 19. Writes from Seville to Philip II (LL 77) on behalf of 
the plan for dividing the Order and asking that P. Gracian 
be made Provincial of the Discalced. 

August. Arrival of her brothers Lorenzo and Pedro from Spanish 
America (F XXV, R XL VI, LL 87, P. Silverio, IX, 246.) 

(Shortly before Christmas). Receives a written order from the 
General to leave Andalusia and to go to reside in a Gastilian 
convent. P. Gracian authorizes her to stay at Seville till the 
summer (LL 87, 91). 


(From June 1576 to June 1580 St. Teresa is mainly at Toledo 
and Avila. Strife within the Order holds up the founda- 


January i. Foundation of Convent at Caravaca (12) during her 
stay in Seville (LL 92). 

(March. P. Jeronimo Tostado arrives in Spain armed with 
powers from P. Rubeo to suppress certain Discalced founda- 
tions and to take other measures against the Reform.) 

April 5. Agreement for the new house at Seville signed. 

(May 12. Provincial Chapter of the Observance, held at La 
Moraleja, takes stern measures against the Reform.) 

May 28. Ceremony of the inauguration of the new house at 

June 4. Leaves Seville for Toledo, via Almodovar del Campo 
and Malagon. Arrives at Malagon on June 1 1 (LL 95) and 
stays for at least a week (LL 96) . Is in Toledo before June 
30 (LL 97). 

(August 8. P. Gracian meets the Superiors of the Reform at 
Almodovar: they refuse to accept the decisions of the 
Moraleja Chapter.) 

June-November. Continues Foundations. 

November 14. Completes Chapter XJCVII of Foundations (See 
penultimate paragraph of that chapter) . 


June 2. Begins Interior Castle. 

(June 1 8. Death of the Nuncio Ormaneto.) 

July. Goes from Toledo to Avila to arrange for the transference 
of St. Joseph's from the jurisdiction of the Ordinary to that 
of the Carmelite Order. Interruption of her work on Interior 
Castle (I.C. V, iv). 

(August 30, Arrival in Spain of the new Nuncio, Sega.) 

September 18. Writes to Philip II on behalf of P. Gracian and 
of the Reform (LL 195). 

October. Violent scenes at the election of a Prioress at the 
Incarnation, Avila. Nuns voting for St. Teresa are excom- 
municated. Ana de Toledo chosen (LL 197-8, cf. 205-7). 


(November 5. Royal Council opposes the policy of Tostado, who 
leaves for Rome.) 

November 29. Finishes Interior Castle. 

(December 3. St. John of the Gross and a companion are carried 
off and imprisoned, at Toledo and La Moraleja respectively, 
by the friars of the Observance (LL 204, 219, 246-7). 

December 4. 1 St. Teresa complains of this act to Philip II 
(LL 204). 

December 24. Falls and breaks her left arm. 


(Persecution of the Reform continues throughout this year: 
LL 237 ff. St. Teresa is in Avila). 

(September 4. Death of P. Rubeo at Rome: LL 253). 

(October 9. Chapter-General of the Discalced held at 

(October 16. Sega puts the Discalced under the jurisdiction of 
the Observance.) 


(April i. Discalced removed from jurisdiction of the Obser- 
vance : P. Angel de Salazar becomes their Superior.) 

(May.* PP. Juan de Jesiis (Roca) and Diego de la Trinidad 
leave for Rome, to attempt to effect the division of the 
Order: LL 273, 275.) P. Salazar authorizes St. Teresa to 
resume the visitation of her convents. 

June 25. Leaves Avila, with B. Ana de San Bartolome, for 
Medina (stays 3-4 days), Valladolid (July 3-30), Salamanca 
(about 2^ months) and Alba (a week). 

July. Sends the Way of perfection to the Archbishop of fivora 
(LL 285). 

November (early). Returns to Avila, 

November. Goes to Toledo (mid-November: LL 291) and 
Malagon; arrives at Malagon, November 25; is there when 
(December 8) the community moves into its new house 
(LL 295). Stays till February 1580. 

1 Some authorities believe that, between December u and 17 of this year, St. 
Teresa had an interview with Philip II at El Escorial (Gf. P. Silverio, IX, 266). 



February 13. Leaves Malagon for Villamieva de la Jara (LL 
307-83 313)3 arriving there February 21, after making stops 
at Toledo and La Roda. 

February 2 1 . Foundation of Convent at Villanueva de la Jara 

March 20. Leaves Villanueva de la Jara. 

March 26. Arrives at Toledo. On March 31 (LL 314) has a 
paralytic stroke. Asks the Archbishop of Toledo for a licence 
to make a foundation in Madrid : the request is not granted 
(LL 323). 

June 7. Though still unwell, leaves for Madrid and Segovia. 
Reaches Segovia on June 15. While there, learns of the death 
(June 26) of her brother Lorenzo (LL 325-63 342). Goes 
(July 6) from Segovia to Avila, to settle his business affairs 
(LL 328). At Segovia, revises the Interior Castle in collabora- 
tion with P. Gracian and P. Yanguas. (Vol. II, p. 194, 
below) . 

(June 22. The Discalced Reform is recognized as a separate 
province by a Bull of Gregory XIII.) 

August (early). Goes on from Avila to Medina del Campo and 
(August 8) Valladolid where she is to see the Bishop about 
the projected foundation in his diocese. At Valladolid has 
a recurrence of the Toledo complaint and becomes danger- 
ously ill (LL 336). 

December 28. Leaves Valladolid for Palencia (LL 344). 

December 29. Foundation of Convent at Palencia (14) (LL 


(March 3. Separation of Calced and Discalced Carmelites 
becomes operative at Chapter of Alcala de Henares: cf. 
LL 350-4. P. Gracian appointed Provincial of the Discalced.) 

June 2. Arrives at Soria, after spending the night of May 31 
at Burgo de Osma (F XXX). 

(June i. The Palencia community moves to its new house.) 


June 14. Foundation of Convent at Sona (15). (Cf. F XXX, 
Vol. Ill, p. 1 80, n. 3, below.) 

August 1 6. Leaves for St. Joseph's, Avila, via Burgo de Osma, 
Segovia (August 23-30: LL 376), Villacastin (September 4: 
LL 377). 

September 5. Arrives at Avila (LL 378). 
September 10. Elected Prioress of St. Joseph's, Avila. 

January 2. Leaves for Burgos, via Medina del Gampo (January 
4-9), Valladolid (staying four days through illness: LL 
404) and Palencia (arrives January 16), arriving at Burgos on 
January 26. 

January 20. Foundation of Convent at Granada (16) in St. 
Teresa's absence. 

April 19. Foundation of Convent at Burgos (17). 


(July) Completes Foundations (F XXXI was being written at 
"the end of June": Vol. Ill, p. 191, n. 2, below). 

July 26. Leaves Burgos for Avila, with B. Ana de San Bartolome 
and her niece Teresita. Visits Palencia (in August), Valla- 
dolid (again ill: leaves on September 15), Medina del 
Campo (September 16) and villages near Penaranda. 
Though ill, goes to Alba de Tonnes at the command of 
the Provincial, Fray Antonio de Jesiis, to visit the Duchess 
of Alba. 

September 20. Arrives at Alba de Tonnes. 
October 4. Dies at Alba de Tormes. 
1614: April 24. Beatified by Paul V. 

1617. Spanish Cortes votes her patroness of Spain. The vote not 

1622: March 12, Canonized by Gregory XV with SS. Isidro, 
Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier. 

1726. Benedict XIII institutes the Feast of the Transverberation 
of her Heart. 


Nearly four centuries have passed since St. Teresa began to 
write, and, both in her own country and abroad, her fame is 
still widespread and still growing. Her purely human qualities 
and gifts, the saintliness of her life by which they were illumined 
and overshadowed, the naturalness and candour of her manner 
and style these are some of the reasons why her name is not 
only graven upon the enduring marble of history but taken 
on the lips of generation after generation with reverence and 

She is a mystic and more than a mystic. Her works, it is true, 
are well known in the cloister and have served as nourishment 
to many who are far advanced on the Way of Perfection, and who, 
without her aid, would still be beginners in the life of prayer. 
Yet they have also entered the homes of millions living in the 
world and have brought consolation, assurance, hope and strength 
to souls who, in the technical sense, know nothing of the life of 
contemplation. Devoting herself, as she did, with the most 
wonderful persistence and tenacity, to the sublimest task given 
to man the attempt to guide others toward perfection she 
succeeded so well in that task that she is respected everywhere 
as an incredibly gifted teacher, who has revealed, more perhaps 
than any who came before her, the nature and extent of those 
gifts which the Lord has laid up in this life for those who love 
Him. In past ages, of course, there had been many writers 
kindled with Divine love to whom He had manifested His in- 
effable secrets, but for the most part these secrets had gone down 
with them to the grave. To St. Teresa it was given to speak to 
the world, in her diaphanous, colloquial language and her simple, 
unaffected style, of the work of the Holy Spirit in the enamoured 
soul, of the interior strife and the continual purgation through 
which such a soul must pass in its ascent of Mount Carmel and 
of the wonders which await it on the mountain's summit. 

So she leads the soul from the most rudimentary stages of the 
Purgative Way to the very heights of Union, bringing it into the 
innermost mansion of the Interior Castle, where, undisturbed 
by the foes that rage without, it can have fruition of union with 
the Lord of that Castle and experience a foretaste of the Beatific 
Vision of the life to come. But, despite the loftiness and sub- 
limity of these themes, she is able to develop them without ever 



losing the most attractive of her qualities as a writer simplicity. 
Continually she finds ready to hand apt and graphic comparisons, 
intelligible even to the unlearned. No mystical writer before her 
day, from the pseudo-Dionysius to Ruysbroeck, nor any who has 
written since, has described such high matters in a way so apt, 
so natural and to such a large extent within the reach of all. The 
publication of her treatises inaugurated for the mystics an epoch 
of what may almost be termed popularity. Those who love the 
pages of the Gospels, and whose aim in life is to attain the Gospel 
ideal of Christian perfection, have found in her works other pages 
in which, without any great effort of the intellect, they may learn 
much concerning the way. Her practical insistence upon the 
virtuous life, her faithfulness to the Evangelical counsels and the 
soundness of her doctrine even in the most obscure and recondite 
details all these will commend her to them. Many, indeed, 
are the fervent lovers of Our Lord who have gone to the school 
of love kept by the Foundress of Avila. 

As a result, her works are read and re-read by Spaniards to 
this day and translated again and again into foreign languages. 
Probably no other book by a Spanish author is as widely 
known in Spain as the Life or the Interior Castle of St. Teresa, with 
the single exception of Cervantes' immortal Don Qyixote. It is 
surely amazing that a woman who lived in the sixteenth century, 
who never studied in the Schools or pored over tomes of pro- 
found learning, still less aspired to any kind or degree of renown, 
should have won such a reputation, both among scholars and 
among the people. We cannot expect to find the reason for this 
in the purely scientific or literary merits of her writings : we must 
look for it by going deeper. 

Essentially, her popularity has been due to Divine grace, which 
first inspired her to lay aside every aim but the quest for God and 
then enabled her to attain a degree of purity in her love for Him 
which sustained and impelled her. Before everything else it is the 
intense fervour of this love which speaks to lovers everywhere, just 
as it is the determination and courage of her virile soul which 
inspires those who long to be more determined and courageous 
than they are. But next to this, it is the purely human quality 
of her writings which makes so wide an appeal. Her methods 
of exposition are not rigidly logical but neither are the workings 
of the human heart. Her books have a gracioso desorden [Herrick's 
"sweet disorder"] which the ordinary reader finds attractive, 
even illuminating. Her disconnected observations, her revealing 
parentheses, her transpositions, ellipses and sudden suspensions 
of thought make her, in one sense, easier to read, even if, in 
another, they sometimes make her more difficult to interpret. 


Even setting aside her lack of technical training as a writer, her 
robust and highly individual temperament would have led her 
into rebellion against academic mechanism of conventionality 
and style in language, had any attempt ever been made to force 
these upon her. Where she uses or imitates the phraseology of 
Holy Scripture she does so unconsciously. Often she never even 
re-read what she wrote; who that is not a professional writer, 
but just a man in the street, or a woman in the kitchen, can help 
loving her? 

Her books were written at the command of her confessors 
that is to say, under obedience. It seemed ridiculous to her that 
a person so imperfect and devoid of talent as herself and a 
woman into the bargain! could possibly write anything that 
would edify others. She was much better employed, she herself 
thought, at the spinning-wheel, and it irked her to leave such a 
profitable occupation as spinning to take up her pen. "For the 
love of God," she once exclaimed, when importuned to write, 
"let me work at my spinning-wheel and go to choir and perform 
the duties of the religious life, like the other sisters. I am not 
meant to write: I have neither the health nor the intelligence 
for it." 1 The following passage gives as vivid an idea as any of 
the spirit in which she wrote : 

The authority of persons so learned and serious as my 
confessors suffices for the approval of any good thing that I 
may say, if the Lord gives me grace to say it, in which case it 
will not be mine but His ; for I have no learning, nor have I led a 
good life, nor do I get my information from a learned man or 
from any other person whatsoever. Only those who have 
commanded me to write this know that I am doing so, and 
at the moment they are not here. I am almost stealing the 
time for writing, and that with great difficulty, for it hinders 
me from spinning and I am living in a poor house and have 
numerous things to do. 2 

But, even had she left no such personal testimony, her writings 
would have shown how little she trusted for inspiration to her 
reading and how completely devoid she was of any constructional 
instinct or sense of literary proportion. Her ideas and sentiments 
spring spontaneously to her mind and spirit. Her pen runs freely 
sometimes too freely for her mind to keep pace with it. Her 
memory, as she frequently confesses, is poor and her few quotations 

X jer6mmo Graoan: Lvddano del verdadero espintu, .Chap. V. She did, however, 
eventually wnte the book she was asked for: it was the Interior Castle. 
*Life, Chap. X [p. 61, below]. 


are seldom entirely accurate. But she is, without the slightest 
doubt, a born writer; and, when a person belonging to that rare 
and fortunate class knows nothing of artifice, casts aside convention, 
and writes as the spirit dictates, the result can never be dis- 

Mysticism, furthermore, is in part an experimental science; 
and he who has the profoundest and most continuous, exper- 
iences of Divine grace is the best qualified to speak of them. St. 
Teresa is remarkable both for the intensity and for the con- 
tinuity of her mystical experiences, and she had a quickness of 
mind, a readiness of expression and a wealth of imagination 
which particularly well fitted her for describing them. Her 
descriptions are incomparably more vivid and intelligible than 
those of many professed students of mystical theology who have 
grown grey in the study of it. This superiority much more than 
compensates for any of her stylistic idiosyncrasies which may 
scandalize the literary preceptist. Had she not boldly snapped 
asunder the bonds of logic and litel-ary rule, she would have 
been powerless to take wing and give us those finest of passages 
which describe the summit of Mount Carmel. We should have 
gained one more methodical writer aspiring to a "golden 
mediocrity" but we should have lost work of a sublime beauty 
bearing the ineffaceable hall-mark of genius. 

But in any case she could never have written impeccable 
manuals or methodically ordered "guides" to the ascetic or the 
mystical life: her genius resembles the rushing torrent, not the 
scientifically constructed canal. She cannot even be said to 
separate asceticism from mysticism: the Way of perfection is an 
ascetic treatise which mystical ideas are constantly invading; 
while the Interior Castle, though fundamentally mystical, does not 
hesitate to lay down and develop ascetic principles. Here, 
again, she conforms, not so much to what is logical as to what 
is natural and human. Any divisions which she makes and 
adheres to are those made by nature and observable in life. By 
any and every test, she is a writer to be read by the many, by 
the people. 

If obedience was St. Teresa's primary motive for writing, a 
secondary motive was to give an accurate and detailed account 
of her spiritual progress, as in the Life, or, as in most of her other 
books, to guide her spiritual daughters. 

The seventeenth-century Carmelite, Fray Jer6nimo de San 
Jose, a historian of the Discalced Reform and author of one 
of the earliest biographies of St. John of the Cross, makes the 
following enumeration of her writings: 


Our Mother St. Teresa wrote five books and seven opuscules. 
The books are : The Book of her Life, The Way of perfection, The 
Mansions,' 1 The Foundations and Meditations on the Songs. The 
opuscules are: Method for the visitation of her convents, Exclamations, 
Spiritual Maxims, Relations of her spirit, Favours granted her by the Lord, 
Devout verses which she composed^ Letters to different persons. So that, 
between books, opuscules and treatises, the number of books 
written by the Saint amounts in all to twelve. 2 


In addition to these works, several more have been credited 
to St. Teresa, though hardly on sufficient evidence. From a 
reference in the Foundations to "a tiny little book" in which she 
"believed she said something about" melancholy, 8 it has been 
inferred that a book of hers on this subject has been lost : the re- 
ference, however, might well be to the Way of perfection, which says 
a good deal about this, and, though the Way of perfection might 
hardly be thought "tiny", she refers to it elsewhere as "little" by 
contrast with her considerably larger Life. 

Another book, which certainly exists, was thought to be the 
work of St. Teresa as long ago as 1630, when it was included by 
Baltasar Moreto in an edition of her works published in that year 
at Antwerp. The only reason for its inclusion appears to have 
been that it was found among some papers which had belonged 
to her, and afterwards became the property of Dona Isabel de 
Avellaneda, wife of Don Inigo de Cardenas, President of the 
Council of Castile. Its title is Seven Meditations on the Paternoster. 
It is a pious commentary on the Lord's Prayer, the seven petitions 
of which are treated as meditations, each intended to be read on a 
different day of the week, under the headings : Father, King, 
Spouse, Shepherd, Redeemer, Physician, Judge. The author was 
both a learned and a spiritually-minded person, well versed in 
Holy Scripture- and with a decided literary bent. The most 
superficial examination reveals it to be clearly non-Teresan. Its 
style is quite unlike that of the Saint and it bears the marks of a 
careful revision entirely foreign to her habits and character. 
Her earliest biographers make no mention of it and her Order 
has never believed it to be hers. "I consider it quite certain that 
the treatise is not by our Holy Mother," says P. Jer6nimo de San 
Jose, and gives the fullest reasons for his opinion. 4 "All who read 
it carefully," he adds, "and even those who read it without great 
care, will think likewise." 

1 [This is the title nearly always given in Spanish to the Interior Castle."] 

2 Htstond del Carmen Descalzo, Bk. V, Chap. XIII. 

* Foundations, Chap. VII (Vol. Ill, p. 36, n.a, below). 
4 Quoted in full bv P. Silveno, I, bax. 


P. Ribera, St. Teresa's first biographer, and a particularly 
conscientious one, tells us that, when very young, in collaboration 
with her brother Rodrigo, she wrote a book on chivalry. "She 
had so excellent a wit, and had so well absorbed the language 
and style of chivalry, that in the space of a few months she and 
her brother Rodrigo composed a book of adventures and fictions 
on that subject, which was such that it attracted a great deal of 
comment." 1 This story is confirmed by Gracian in his notes 
to Ribera's book and has been frequently repeated and taken as 
accurate by later writers. There would be nothing intrinsically 
improbable in the idea that a writer with the initiative and 
imagination of St. Teresa, who, we know (for she tells us herself 
in great detail) 2 , was attracted in her youth by romances of the 
Amadis type, should try to produce something of the sort herself 
by way of recreation, and we may be sure that, if she did so, the 
book in question would be well worth reading. P. Andres de la 
Encarnacion, an eighteenth-century editor and critic of St. John 
of the Cross, 3 took the suggestion very seriously, and debated 
where the book was to be found, and whether or no, supposing 
it were found, it ought to be published. 4 For ourselves, we suspect 
that, if it was ever written at all, it was soon destroyed by its own 
authors, either because of the nature of its contents or for fear 
that it would fall into the hands of their father, the austere Don 
Alonso, who for such an indiscretion would no doubt have meted 
out anything but a reward. 

By great good fortune, the originals of nearly all St. Teresa's 
principal works have come down to us, together with those of a 
fair number of her letters and some account books bearing her 
signature. This fortune we owe to the great esteem shown for St. 
Teresa and her Reform by King Philip II, who, when collecting 
books and manuscripts for the library which he proposed to 
establish in his newly built palace-monastery at El Escorial, 
asked P. Doria (Fray Nicolds de Jesiis Maria), 6 at that time 
Vicar-General of the Discalced Carmelites, if he could obtain 
for him any of St. Teresa's autographs. As a result, four of these 
are now to be found in the Escorial Library: namely, the Life, 
the Way of perfection, the Foundations and the Method for the visitation 
of her convents. The autograph of the Interior Castle is preserved in 
die Discalced Carmelite convent at Seville, and a second auto- 
graph of the Way of perfection, to be referred to later, has long been in 
the possession of the convent of the Discalced nuns at Valladolid. 

1 Ribera, Bk. I, Chap. V. 

*Life, Chap. II (p. 13, below). 

3 [St. John of the Cross, I, hv ff, et passim ] 

4 B. Nac. MS. 3180, Adiciones E , Nos. 13, 14. 

5 [Cf. SSM., II, 155-6] 


As a considerable number of facsimile reproductions of these 
manuscripts have been published, the careful study of the Teresan 
writings in their original state has been brought within the reach 
of all who are qualified to undertake it. 

Needless to say, a great many copies of the Saint's writings 
were made very soon after her death, and, needless to say, too, 
these copies contained numerous errors. To put an end to this 
circulation of defective versions of their Mother Foundress' 
works, the Discalced Carmelites took steps towards the prepar- 
ation of a complete edition. A beginning had been made with 
their publication even in her own lifetime. A great friend of hers, 
Don Teutonic de Braganza, Archbishop of fivora, undertook to 
bring out an edition of the Maxims and Way of perfection, based 
upon a corrected manuscript (still extant) which she herself sent 
him, in 1579: this was approved by the ecclesiastical censor in 
1580 and published at fivora in 1583. At Salamanca, in 1585, 
P. Gracian (Fray Jer6nimo de la Madre de Dios) 1 at that time 
Provincial of the Reform, re-published the Way of perfection., 
which no doubt was given precedence over the other works on 
account of its practical utility in the training of religious. An 
impetus must have been given to these activities by St. John of the 
Cross, who, just about this time, wrote as follows in the com- 
mentary to his Spiritual Canticle 9 . 

But since my intent is but to expound these stanzas briefly, 
as I promised in the prologue, these other things must remain 
for such as can treat them better than I. And I pass over the 
subject likewise because the Blessed Teresa of Jesus, our mother, 
left notes admirably written upon these things of the spirit, 
the which notes I hope in God will speedily be printed and 
brought to light. 2 

St. John of the Cross was in fact present at the meeting of the 
General Chapter in 1586 which decided to publish the Saint's 
complete works. The editorship was entrusted, not to a Car- 
melite, but to an Augustinian one of the leading men of letters 
in Spain, the Salamancan professor Fray Luis de Leon. The 
volume, of over a thousand octavo pages, was published at 
Salamanca in 1588, and includes the following works, printed 
in the order here given: Book of her life; some of the Relations; 
Way of perfection; Maxims; Interior Castle; Exclamations. The 
principal omission, it will be observed, is the Foundations: so many 
of the people mentioned in it were still living that its publication 
was thought to be premature. 

1 [S S.M., II, 151-89 ] * [St. John of the Cross, II, 72.! 


On the whole, as one would expect of an editor who, besides 
being himself an author, had had a lifetime of academic exper- 
ience, Fray Luis de Le6n acquitted himself remarkably well. 
The edition has some omissions and variant readings of such 
length or importance that they can hardly have been due to 
accident, besides a considerable number of errata, notably in 
punctuation and, owing to St. Teresa's often compressed and 
elliptical style, a misplaced comma is sometimes enough to alter 
the sense of an entire passage. None the less, judged by the stand- 
ards of its day, the edition is a distinctly good one. 

It was reprinted, at the same press, in the following year, 
after which date further editions came quickly. The works, 
in a more or less complete state, were published at Saragossa 
in 1592; at Madrid, in 1597 and 1615; at Naples, in 1604; at 
Brussels, in 1604; at Brussels, in 1610; at Valencia, in 1613 and 
1623. The Brussels edition was the first to include the Foundations. 
The editio princeps was reprinted at Madrid in 1622 and 1627 
and at Saragossa in 1623. -"- n 1 Z> at Antwerp, Baltasar Moreto 
published an edition already referred to as including the apocry- 
phal Seven Meditations. A single- volume edition, in 1635, an< ^ a 
two-volume edition, in 1636, came out in Madrid. 

This rapidly increasing circulation of St. Teresa's works, 
however, was not altogether welcomed by her Order, for the 
printers' errors in each edition were handed down to jthe next, 
often with considerable additions, while undue liberties were some- 
times taken with the text by editors less conscientious than Fray 
Luis de Leon. It was in about 1645 ^ at P- Francisco de Santa 
Maria, the historian of the Discalced Reform, obtained permission 
from his superiors for a new collation of the printed works and 
the autographs, with a view to the preparation of a more reliable 
edition than any yet published. The collation was entrusted 
to a number of friars and the new edition the second which 
may be described as "official" was eventually published in 
Madrid in 1661. 

We need not follow through the centuries the long tale of 
editions of the Saint's works still less enumerate the editions 
of individual works which will be referred to later in the intro- 
ductions to each. It must suffice, in this brief survey, to remark 
on the continuity with which St. Teresa was read even during 
the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when mysticism 
was little in favour, and to mention a few of the editions which 
may be considered of outstanding interest. 

In the mid-eighteenth century, the Order determined upon 
still another "official" edition and entrusted the work of preparing 
one to that excellent critic already referred to, P. Andres de la 


Encarnacion, who enlisted the aid of a competent palaeographer, 
a companion worthy of himself, P. Manuel de Santa Maria. 
The results of their researches, both on St. Teresa and on St. 
John of the Gross, remained in manuscript; and the three 
volumes of Memorias historiales, in the National Library of Spain, 
at Madrid, are a major source for critical work on the Reformers 
of Garmel. As many of the archives which the two Fathers used 
are no longer in existence, their work has preserved much that 
would otherwise have been irretrievably lost, including part of 
the magnificent collection which we have of Teresan letters. 
In their work upon the texts, they detected more than seven 
hundred errors in the Life of 1627 and twelve hundred in Moreto's 
edition of the Foundations. It is a pity that the Order found the 
task of publishing a new edition too much for it and was content 
to reprint, in 1778, an edition of 1752, adding to it a volume 
containing eighty-two previously unpublished letters. In 1793 
appeared another edition, which included a further volume of 
Letters and eighty-seven fragments, and was the last to be published 
by the Order for a hundred and twenty years. Not until 1851, 
when the religious persecutions of the early years of the nine- 
teenth century were over, was this edition reprinted, and ten 
years later came the edition of Don Vicente de la Fuente, which 
forms part of the monumental series of Spanish classics known 
as the "Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles." 

The strides made in Spain, during the last half-century, by 
Teresan criticism, and indeed by Spanish criticism in general, 
make it possible for Spaniards to look back from a great distance 
at the work of La Fuente, both here and in his later six-volume 
edition of 1881, and find in it faults of many kinds: innumerable 
textual errors, frequent inaccuracies of fact, exaggerations in 
judgment and an undue dogmatism of tone. This Aragonese 
editor, though learned and devout in a high degree, had the 
temperamental bluntness and stubbornness traditionally 
associated with Aragon, and from this his work frequently 
suffered. None the less, his edition remained unsuperseded for 
over half a century until, in fact, in the year of the quater- 
centenary of St. Teresa's birth, appeared the first volume of the 
definitive Carmelite edition [which we owe to the indefatigable 
P. Silverio de Santa Teresa.] 

[This edition, consisting of nine volumes (1915-24) of which 
the last three comprise the largest collection yet made of the 
Saint's letters four hundred and fifty in all concentrated 
upon the preparation of as correct as possible a text, using the 
autographs, or photostats of them, where previous editors had 
relied on copies. The notes to the text, which are not the strongest 


point of the edition, are brief and in the main factual, though 
occasionally they sin through the discursiveness which P. Silverio 
seldom for long avoids. A welcome feature was the inclusion 
of many newly discovered letters for, while the sacking of 
religious houses during the nineteenth century had led to much 
destruction, it had also brought to light a good deal that had 
previously been unknown. P. Silverio's appendices contain 
numerous hitherto unpublished documents, many of them of 
capital importance for an intimate knowledge of St. Teresa's 

[The foregoing notes bear witness of the most practical kind 
to the continuous popularity which St. Teresa has enjoyed in 
her own country since the time of her death, while, at the end of 
the third volume of this edition, will be found a select biblio- 
graphy of commentaries, biographies and translations of her 
works into foreign languages which will testify to the extent to 
which she has been read abroad. In our own country it was 
her Life which at first chiefly attracted translators : the Antwerp 
translations of the Jesuit William Malone appeared as early 
as 1611; twelve years later, Sir Tobias Mathew's version, known 
as The Flaming Hart, was published in London, a second edition 
appearing at Antwerp in 1642; while the Life and Foundations 
were published by Abraham Woodhead in 1669-71, and a third 
volume, containing nearly all the remaining works, came out 
in 1675. After this nearly two centuries elapsed before the 
Saint began to be widely read once more, but since Dalton, 
with his new translation of the Life. (1851), led the revival, 
interest in her has never ceased. Dalton's Way of perfection and 
Interior Castle (1852), Foundations (1853) and small selection of 
Letters (1853) were followed by the Life (1870) and Foundations 
(1871) in the translation of David Lewis: the Life, still leading 
the other works in popularity, went into four editions. The 
mantle of Lewis fell upon the shoulders of a Benedictine nun 
of Stanbrook Abbey, and the editions of the Benedictines of 
Stanbrook, already referred to, and notably their versions of 
the Way of perfection and the Interior Castle and their four-volume 
edition of the Letters (1919-24), have perhaps done more than 
any others to give St. Teresa a place in our spiritual life com- 
parable to that which she holds in Spain. Finally we must 
not forget the valuable contributions made to our knowledge 
of the Saint and her times by the learned Carmelite, Father 
Zimmerman, whose revisions of, and introductions to, the Lewis 
and Stanbrook translations have so much enhanced their value. 
England, it will be seen, is not now behindhand in her apprecia- 


tion of a Saint on whom one of her seventeenth-century poets 
wrote what is perhaps the finest panegyric in verse upon her in 

O thou undanted daughter of desires! 

By all thy dowr of Lights and Fires; 

By all the eagle in thee, all the dove; 

By all thy lives and deaths of love; 

By thy larg draughts of intellectual! day, 

And by thy thirsts of love more large then they; 

By all thy brim-filPd Bowles of feirce desire; 

By thy last Morning's draught of liquid fire; 

By the full kingdome of that finall kisse 

That seiz'd thy parting Soul, and seal'd thee his; 

By all the heavn's thou hast in him 

(Fair sister of the Seraphim!); 

By all of Him we have in Thee; 

Leave nothing of my Self in me. 

Let me so read thy life, that I 

Unto all life of mine may dy. 1 ] 

The translator, who, in the main, has followed P. Silverio 
in the order in which he has arranged St. Teresa's worlds, begs 
leave to append a note, adapted from P. Silverio, upon the 
principles underlying this arrangement. 

He begins with the Saint's earliest and fundamental work, 
her Life (1562-5), which is followed by a shorter work closely 
connected with it in spirit, and hence forming a natural com- 
plement to it the Relations. It might be thought that the Life 
should rather have been followed by the autobiographical 
Foundations, but it must be remembered that the Life is an auto- 
biography primarily in the spiritual sense a history of the 
manifestations of Divine grace in the writer's soul whereas 
the Foundations is mainly a record of practical achievements 
and is related as closely with the history of the Order as with 
the life of the Saint. 

After the Life and the Relations comes the Way of perfection 
(c. 1565), written under obedience, as we have seen, for the edifi- 
cation of the nuns of the Saint's first foundation St. Joseph's, 
Avila and based upon her own meditations on the Lord's 
Prayer. Since the Life contained so much intimate detail it was 

x ["The Flaming Hart" ("Upon the book and picture of the seraphicall St. 


thought unsuitable for publication until after its author's death, 
and the Way of perfection was written, in one sense, to supply 
its place. Next conies the Interior Castle (1577), more mature 
and more intensely mystical than its two predecessors. These 
three works, taken together, may be thought of as a complete 
exposition of the ascetic and mystical system of St. Teresa. As 
closely connected with the Interior Castle in its nature and spirit 
as are the Relations with the Life are the Conceptions of the Love oj 
God, and the Exclamations of the Soul to God, the two loveliest of 
St. Teresa's opuscules, both of them from beginning to end 
aglow with mystical love. 

Following these, as standing outside their sphere and (despite 
some fine and noble passages) on a lower plane, comes the 
Foundations (1573 ff.}, the last of the four major works, and, follow- 
ing these, we give the minor works, with the poems appropriately 
coming last, as it is in verse that St. Teresa is least noteworthy. 



Like all servants of God to whom He has granted special 
Braces, St. Teresa, when led by unfamiliar paths, had continual 
nisgivings lest she should be suffering from demoniacal delusions. 
These misgivings she frequently revealed to her spiritual 
iirectors, keeping nothing back from them but opening her soul 
/vith exemplary simplicity and humility, especially when what 
he had to tell was to her own disadvantage. Some of her con- 
essors, so as the better to form judgments on matters of such 
extreme difficulty, ordered her to write an account of the graces 
.hat she was receiving from God, more particularly of the graces 
riven her in prayer, and to record anything further which might 
acilitate the understanding of them. 

Such was the origin of this admirable autobiography, which, 
or the naturalness with which it is written, for the profundity 
md detail of its psychological analysis and for the sublimity 
Df the spiritual mysteries which it unfolds, is worthy of a place 
beside the Confessions of St. Augustine. 

The first part of the book (Chaps. I-X) is autobiographical 
n the ordinary sense of the word: it describes the author's 
Darentage, early life and education, the interior conflicts which 
jhe had to endure before embracing religion, the alternating 
ukewarmness and fervour of her life at the Convent of the 
Incarnation, in Avila, and finally the crisis which ended in her 
resolve to seek perfection and walk in the way of prayer. There 
then follows a parenthetical section (Chaps. XI-XXVII) 1 which 
describes the contemplative life under the figure of the Four 
Waters, each of which corresponds to one stage of spiritual 
progress. Only at the end of these seventeen chapters does St. 
Teresa return to her own life, in order to describe (Chaps. 
XXVIII-XL) the surpassing favours which the Lord granted 
tier and the spiritual trials in which she was so greatly helped by 
the Franciscan St. Peter of Alcantara. 2 Into this part of the 
book is introduced her account of the foundation of the first 

1 [More properly this section may be considered as ending with Chap. XXII. 
* I will now return to the place where I left off the description of my life," says St. 
Teresa at the beginning of Chap. XXIII ; but she interpolates a further generalization 
on locutions, so the narrative is not quite continuous ] 

*[S-S.Af., II, 99-120.] 


convent of the Reform, St. Joseph's, Avila. The Life closes 
with a moving enumeration of the new favours which she is 
receiving from God and of the effects produced by them in her 
soul. Into the whole of this narrative are intercalated discreet 
counsels for confessors, tender colloquies with God, shrewd 
maxims for souls desirous of attaining perfection and ardent 
apostrophes to all Christian people. 

This is St. Teresa's most important treatise. Without it neither 
the Way of perfection nor the Interior Castle could be properly 
understood : she herself refers to it on several occasions as her 
"big book" (libro grande}. Only the superficial student, however, 
is content for long to think of these three works as separate. 
So closely united are they, so essentially complementary to each 
other, that it is easier to regard them as three parts of one great 

Exactly when the Life was written it is by no means easy to 
determine. P. Domingo Banez, in a deposition made at Sala- 
manca, asserts that "she had written this book when I first 
came into contact with her ,and she wrote it with the leave of 
her previous confessors. . . . Afterwards she added to it and 
recast it ", 1 This first draft, of which no copy is known, though 
most of it, no doubt, was incorporated in the definitive version, 
was apparently concluded while she was staying with Dona 
Luisa de la Cerda at Toledo 2 [where she would, of course, have 
had much more leisure for writing than in the ordinary way]. 
At any rate, the note appended to the letter at the end of the 
book describes it as having been finished in June I56s, 3 and we 
know that she went to Toledo in January 1562 and stayed there 
for six months. 4 

At the end of 1562 [or possibly early in 1563, when the founda- 
tion of St. Joseph's had been completed, the resulting "com- 
motion" had ceased and her mind was once more at rest], the 
Saint began to rewrite the book, and, just as she had been ordered 
to write the first draft by P. ibanez, so, it appears, we owe 
the new version to the insistence of his fellow-Dominican P. 
Garcia de Toledo. The evidence for this [so far as it can be 
taken as referring to the Life as a whole] comes from St. Teresa 
herself, for in the preface to her Foundations she writes as follows : 

In the year 1562, when I was in the Convent of Saint Joseph, 
at Avila, which had been founded in that very year, I was 
commanded by the Dominican Father Fray Garcia de Toledo, 

1 Git. La Fuente* Escntos de Santa Teresa, Madnd, 1861, II, 377. 

2 Gf p. 23 2 3 below. 

3 Gf p. 300, below. 

4 Cf. p. 341, below. * ' 


who at that time was my confessor, to write an account of 
the foundation of that convent, and also of many other things, 
as anyone who reads the book, if it is ever published, will 
see. 1 

Further encouragement, according to Gracian, 2 came from the 
Inquisitor Francisco Soto, whom she met at Avila, from "other 
confessors who had given her the same command" and from "the 
requests of many of her friends". For greater clarity, the new 
version was divided into forty chapters. 

The work must have proceeded very slowly, for there are 
a number of indications that it was not finished until the very 
end of 1565. The following, in the approximate order in which 
they occur, are the most reliable of these 3 : 

1. "The twenty-eight years which have gone by since I 
began prayer" (Chap. VIII: p. 49). 

2. "The twenty-eight years and more that have gone by 
since I became (a nun)" (Chap. XXXVI: p. 252). 

3. "The twenty-seven years during which I have been 
practising prayer" (Chap. X: p. 62). 

4. "It is now, I believe, some five, or perhaps six, years 
since the Lord granted me this prayer [the Third Water] 
in abundance" (Chap. XVI: p. 96). 

5. Her first contact with the Society of Jesus took place 
"after almost twenty years' experience of prayer" (Chap. 
XXIII: p. 150). 

6. "I am not yet fifty" (Chap. XXXVII: p. 266). 

7. Mention of the death of P. Ibafiez (Chap. XXXVIII: 
p. 272. Cf. Chap. XXXIV, p. 238). 

8. Mention of the receipt of a Brief from Rome which was 
dated July 17, 1565 (Chap. XXXIX: p. 285). 

The first five of these references enable us to postulate and 
confirm an approximate date; the last three confirm, this further 
and help us to fix it more exactly. 

1-5. What St /Teresa means by "beginning prayer" is evident 
from No. 5. Despite the unflattering account which she gives 
of the state of her soul during her first years as a nun, she clearly 
takes the date of her profession as roughly the beginning of her 
life of prayer. Since we know that her relations with the Society 

1 [Vol. Ill, p. xxi, below. The command was given her in 1562 but the actual 
writing may not have been begun nil later.] 

2 Lucidono, etc., Part I, Chap. III. 

3 [Only Nos. 7 and 8 are 'given by P. Silveno and the discussion of them all is the 


of Jesus began about 1557, this puts the earlier date at 1537, 
and Nos. i, 3 then prove that Chapters VIII and X were being 
written in 1564-5. The fact that the date of Chapter X is appar- 
ently a year earlier than that of Chapter VIII may mean that the 
earlier chapter was revised a second time after the later one had 
been written, or more likely, as the Saint revised her work 
but little, it may merely be a reminder to us that her figures can- 
not be implicitly relied upon. 

No. 2 supplies a check "on these calculations. If by "becoming 
a nun" she means "making her profession", Chapter XXXVI 
was also being written in 1565 j 1 if she means entering the convent, 
the date is 1564. In any case, the foregoing calculations seem 
definitely to put out of court the critics who attempt to date her 
profession 1535, or even earlier, as also does the reference in 
Chapter VIII to the "nearly twenty years on that stormy sea" 
which she spent before the intensification of her spiritual life, 
which we can date with fair accuracy at 1556-7. 

The evidence so far considered suggests that whatever delays 
occurred during the writing of the definitive Life took place 
during the years 1562-4, and that from the end of 1564 onwards 
the pace of composition was greatly accelerated. 

No. 6 proves that, if the Saint knew her own age (cf. p. 266, 
below), Chapter XXXVII was being written before March 28, 
1565, the day on which she was fifty. This is a little earlier than 
we should have expected and it is interesting that the evidence 
as to Chapter XXXVI may also point to a date slightly in advance 
of that suggested by other testimony. Can these two chapters 
be earlier than some which precede them? 

No. 7 means that Chapter XXXVIII was written after 
February 2, 1565. If very soon after, this and the preceding 
chapter may well have been written consecutively. 

No. 8 not only proves that Chapter XXXIX could not have 
been written before the late summer of 1565 (and there is nothing 
in the text to suggest that it was written immediately on receipt 
of the Brief) but indicates that, if this Brief took five months in 
getting from Rome to Avila as its predecessor did (p. 248, n.i, 
below}, it was probably written as late as December, or even 
early in the next year. 2 

1 But perhaps late in that year: note the "and more", which does not occur in the 
earlier passage. 

a [Tworeferences in Chap. XXIX, briefly discussed in footnotes to pp. 1 87, 1 89, below, 
seem to support the theory of a later rather than an earlier date within the limits 
we have laid down. If we assume the first imaginary vision to have occurred in 
1560 (p. xxvm) they indicate that Chap XXIX was written either in the late summer, 
or at the very end, of 1565. Of the references given in the text above, No 6 provides 
the only strong evidence against the supposition that the latter part of the book was not 
written till later in 1565 and not finished until early in 1566 1 


Our general conclusions, then, will be that, though St. Teresa 
was commanded to write the Life in the latter part of 1562, 
she did comparatively little of it for some two years, and then 
worked more rapidly and intensively, writing most it during 
1565 and finishing it only at the very end of that year or early 
in 1566.] 

Having written the book, she endeavoured to submit it, as 
Soto had recommended her to do, to the scrutiny of the famous 
preacher and confessor Juan de Avila, 1 but was not immediately 
successful. A letter appended to the autograph manuscript of 
the Life tells us that the book had no sooner been completed 
("I had not finished reading through what I had written") 
than the recipient of the letter 2 asked for it; whereupon the 
author begged him to make any emendations in it which he 
thought weU and before sending it to P. Avila to have it copied. 
As at this time P. Banez, one of the Saint's two confessors, was 
professor of theology at the Dominican College of St. Thomas 
in Avila, it is not improbable that the two Fathers examined the 
manuscript together, which would no doubt mean a delay in 
sending it on as its author had asked. 

Her wish was apparently in part prompted by the fame of 
the great Apostle of Andalusia as a discerner of spirits and in 
part due to the recommendation of the Inquisitor Francisco 
Soto. That before sending him the book she had written to him 
asking him to give her his opinion on it we deduce from one of 
his own letters dated April 2 (probably 1568)3 which is still 
extant, and in which he says : 

I want you to set your mind at rest with regard to the 
examination of that matter (negocio), for, if such persons as 
these have seen it, you have done everything that is incumbent 
upon you. I really do not believe that I could point out 
anything which these Fathers have not pointed out already. 3 

But neither this assurance nor the approval given to the book 
by the two Dominican theologians could entirely satisfy its 
author; she therefore had recourse to her good friend Dona 
Luisa de la Cerda, whom Juan de Avila also knew and esteemed 

i[SSM. 9 II, 123-48.] 

2 Yepes asserts that this was P. Garcia de Toledo, a statement confirmed by docu- 
ments preserved in the Dominican College at Avila. P. Andres de la Encarnacion 
(Memorias kistoriales, N, No. 27) shares the view. P. Gracian, however (Lucidano, 
Part I, Chap. Ill), believes that the recipient was Francisco de Salcedo, M. Daza has 
also been suggested. 

8 [My translation. Another version will be found in Letters (St.), I, 41. (The heading 
there is incorrect, for Juan de Avila had not seen the manuscript when he wrote) ] 


highly. In May 1568 Dona Luisa apparently had the manuscript 
in her possession, for St. Teresa writes begging her to send 
it to him: "I cannot understand/' she says, "why Your 
Ladyship did not send it at once." 1 Nine days later, she is 
desperate : 

I believe it is the devil who is preventing Master Avila from 
seeing this thing (negocio] of mine. I should be sorry if he were 
to die first: that would be a great calamity. I beseech Your 
Ladyship, as you are so near, to send it him, sealed, by one 
of your own messengers. 2 

By June 23 it would appear that P. Avila has it, or is about to 
have it, as she asks Dona Luisa to see that it is sent back to her as 
quickly as possible, together with his written opinion on it. It 
was actually returned to her, with "a long letter" 3 containing 
only minor criticisms, in September. Still she was not satisfied, 
and the next to read it were PP. Martin Gutierrez and Jeronimo 
Ripalda, two priests of the Society of Jesus, the latter of whom 
urged her to write the history of her later foundations. 4 It was 
then read by Fray Bartolome de Medina, a Dominican who at 
one time had been highly critical of the Saint but was converted 
into one of her strongest supporters. 

And these were only the beginnings of the book's travels. 
Not merely religious, but secular clergy and lay-folk, wanted 
to see it or to show it to others; and soon a number of copies 
were in circulation, much to the disquiet both of the author 
and of P. Bafiez, who feared that not all its readers might be as 
prudent as these first. Banez, at one point, reproached St. Teresa 
for sending the book about too freely "although", he adds 
in his own account of the affair, "I realize that the fault was 
not hers". 5 

Some trouble did in fact occur with that imperious and self- 
willed lady, Dona Maria de Mendoza, Princess of boli, whose 
character will be revealed more clearly in the Saint's narrative 
of her own foundations. 6 Hearing of the book, about the summer 
of 1569, the Princess insisted upon its being lent her, and its 
author, though at first demurring to her importunity, had 
eventually to yield. The Princess promised her that the manu- 
script should be read only by herself and her husband, but, 

1 Letters, 5. Cf. Letters (St ), I, 18. 
* Letters, 6. Cf. Letters (St.), I, 23-4. 

3 Letters, 11 Cf Letters (St.), I, 39 

4 Cf Vol. Ill, p. xxii, below. 
6 Cit P. Stlveno, I, cxxiu. 

8 Foundations, Chap. XVII (VoL III, pp 79-85, below). 


whether by accident or by design, it got into the hands of the 
entire household, and soon its contents began to be widely 
known and its most intimate revelations to be scoffed at or 
denounced as fraud or delusion. 

About the chronology of what happened next there is some 
disagreement, but the sequence of the facts is fairly clear. After 
the Princess's husband died, she herself took the Discalced 
habit and caused a great commotion, as a result of which the 
Pastrana foundation, of which she had been the patroness, was 
moved to Segovia. 1 It is believed that St. Teresa's opposition 
to her conduct led the Princess to denounce the Life to the 
Inquisition: in any case, it was so denounced, and P. Banez, 
fearful for the result, made a few small emendations in the 
manuscript and then himself laid it before the Inquisitors. 
These events probably all took place in the years 1574-5. Another 
Dominican was charged with its official examination and his 
judgment f was wholly in its favour, but the Inquisitors retained 
the manuscript and Gracian advised Teresa to allow them to do 
so. When eventually application was made to them for it, they 
at once returned it and allowed it to be copied further and 
circulated among the communities of the Reform. 

As we have said, the autograph of the Life is now in the Library 
of El Escorial. On the second folio is the inscription (not by the 
author) : "Life of the Mother Teresa of Jesus, written by her own 
hand." The manuscript has no punctuation and few divisions 
into paragraphs but the writing is vigorous, clear and legible 
and there are hardly more than a dozen erasures. Some of these 
are the author's; some are by P. Banez; and some by a third 
person perhaps P. Avila [though P. Silverio is inclined to think 
not]. At the end of the manuscript is an autograph aprobacwn 
by P. Banez, dated July 7, 1575. 

P. Gracian had a number of copies made of the Life, but 
nearly all these have been lost. One of the oldest copies known, 
which is kept at El Escorial, was made by the Saint's niece 
Teresa, daughter of her brother Lorenzo, from the manuscript 
already referred to as having been held by the Inquisition. 
Another, preserved in the Discalced Carmelite convent at Sala- 
manca, is dated June 26, 1585 and was apparently made by a 
nun of the Reform' were the autograph not still in existence, 
it would be of the first importance. In the same convent there 
was 'formerly a copy of the editio princeps of St. Teresa's works, 
in which the pages containing the Life have some marginal notes 
in the handwriting of P. Gracian, referring principally to the 
i Cf. Vol. Ill, p. 85, below. 


identity of persons mentioned in the text. Since in some places 
he could have gained his information only from St. Teresa's 
own lips, these notes are of great value. The whereabouts of 
this book is now unknown, but, as the marginal notes were 
copied by P. Andres de la Encarnaci6n, this is of little moment. 
Some of these sources will be referred to in footnotes in the pages 
which follow. 



As I have been commanded and given full liberty to write 
about my way of prayer and the favours which the Lord has 
granted me, I wish I had also been allowed to describe clearly 
and in full detail my grave sins and wicked life. To do this would 
be a great comfort to me; but it has been willed otherwise in 
fact, I have been subjected to severe restrictions in the matter. 
So, for the love of the Lord, I beg anyone who reads this account 
of my life to bear in mind how wicked it has been so much so 
that, among all the saints who have been converted to God, 
I can find none whose life affords me any comfort. For I realize 
that, once the Lord had called them, they never offended Him 
again. I, however, became worse; and not only so, but I seem to 
have studied how to resist the favours which His Majesty granted 
me. I knew that I had the obligation to serve Him better, but 
realized that, of myself, I could not pay the least part of what I 
owed Him. 

May He Who waited so long for me be blessed for ever. I 
beseech Him with my whole heart to give me grace to 'write this 
account of my life, according to my confessors' command, with 
complete clarity and truthfulness. The Lord Himself, I know, 
has long wished it to be written but I have not presumed to 
write it. May it be to His glory and praise; and may it lead my 
confessors to know me better, so that they may help my weakness 
and I may be enabled to render the Lord some part of the service 
which I owe Him. May He be praised by all things for ever. 

1 This title is from the editio p*inceps. 



Describes how the Lord began to awaken her soul in childhood to a love 
of virtue and what a help it is in this respect to have good parents. 

If I had not been so wicked it would have been a help to me 
that I had parents who were virtuous and feared God, and also 
that the Lord granted me His favour to make me good. My 
father 1 was fond of reading good books and had some in Spanish 
so that his children might read them too. These books, together 
with the care which my mother took to make us say our prayers 
and to lead us to be devoted to Our Lady and to certain saints, 
began to awaken good desires in me when I was, I suppose, 
about six or seven years old. It was a help to me that I never saw 
my parents inclined to anything but virtue. They themselves 
had many virtues. My father was a man of great charity towards 
the poor, who was good to the sick and also to his servants 
so much so that he could never be brought to keep slaves, because 
of his compassion for them. On one occasion, when he had a 
slave of a brother of his in the house, 2 he was as good to her as 
to his own children. He used to say that it caused him intolerable 
distress that she was not free. He was strictly truthful: nobody 
ever heard him swear or speak evil. He was a man of the most 
rigid chastity. 

My mother, too, was a very virtuous woman, who endured a 
life of great infirmity: she was also particularly chaste. Though 
extremely beautiful, she was never known to give any reason for 
supposing that she made the slightest account of her beauty; 
and, though she died at thirty-three, her dress was already 
that of a person advanced in years. She was a very tranquil 
woman, of great intelligence. Throughout her life she endured 
great trials and her death was most Christian. 3 

We were three sisters and nine brothers : all of them, by the 
goodness of God, resembled their parents in virtue, except myself, 
though I was my father's favourite. And, before I began to offend 

1 St. Teresa's father, Don Alonso Sanchez de Gepeda, was twice married By his 
first wife he had three children; by his second, Dona Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, nine. 
Of these nine, Rodngo and Teresa were respectively the second and the third, while 
Lorenzo, father of the Teresa who copied the Life (p 7, above) was the fourth. 
Both parents were well descended and the family was in comfortable circumstances, 
though not wealthy. 

2 At this time well-to-do families in Spain often kept as slaves Moors whose families 
had remained in the country after the Reconquest 

3 Dona Beatriz had married at fourteen, having been born in 1495, and died in 

I] LIFE i] 

God, I think there was some reason for this, for it grieves me 
whenever I remember what good inclinations the Lord had giver 
me and how little I profited by them. My brothers and sisters 
never hindered me from serving God in any way. 

I had one brother almost of my own age. 1 It was he whom 
I most loved, though I had a great affection for them all, as had 
they for me. We used to read the lives of saints together; and. 
when I read of the martyrdoms suffered by saintly women for 
God's sake, I used to think they had purchased the fruition 
of God very cheaply; and I had a keen desire to die as they had 
done, not out of any love for God of which I was conscious, but 
in order to attain as quickly as possible to the fruition of the 
great blessings which, as I read, were laid up in Heaven. I 
used to discuss with this brother of mine how we could become 
martyrs. We agreed to go off to the country of the Moors, 
begging our bread for the love of God, so that they might behead 
us there; and, even at so tender an age, I believe the Lord had 
given us sufficient courage for this, if we could have found a 
way to do it; but our greatest hindrance seemed to be that we 
had a father and a mother. 2 It used to cause us great astonish- 
ment when we were told that both pain and glory would last 
for ever. We would spend long periods talking about this and we 
liked to repeat again and again, "For ever ever ever!" 
Through our frequent repetition of these words, it pleased the 
Lord that in my earliest years I should receive a lasting^mpression 
of the way of truth. 

When I saw that it was impossible for me to go to any place 
where they would put me to death for God's sake, we decided 
to become hermits, and we used to build hermitages, as well as 
we could, in an orchard which we had at home. We would 
make heaps of small stones, but they at once fell down again, 
so we found no way of accomplishing our desires. But even now 
it gives me a feeling of devotion to remember how early God 
granted me what I lost by my own fault. 

I gave alms as I could, which was but little. I tried to be alone 
when I said my prayers, and there were many such, in particular 
the rosary, to which my mother had a great devotion, and this 
made us devoted to them too. Whenever I played with other little 
girls, I used to love building convents and pretending that we 

1 The reference is almost certainly to Rodrigo, who was four years her senior. 
He emigrated to America in 1535 and died two years later fighting the Indians on 
the banks of the Rio de la Plata. On the incident in the text, see Yepes, Bk. I, 
Chap. II. 

8 Ribera (Bk. I, Chap. IV) describes the attempt as having actually been made. The 
children left Avila and "went on over the bridge, until they were met by an uncle 
who took them back home to their mother, greatly to her relief, for she had^been 
having them searched for everywhere with great anxiety". 


were nuns; and I think I wanted to be a nun, though not so much 
as the other things I have described. 

I remember that, when my mother died, I was twelve years 
of age or a little less. 1 When I began to realize what I had lost, 
I went in my distress to an image of Our Lady 2 and with many 
tears besought her to be a mother to me. Though I did this in 
my simplicity, I believe it was of some avail to me; for whenever 
I have commended myself to this Sovereign Virgin I have 
been conscious of her aid ; and eventually she has brought me 
back to herself. It grieves me now when I observe and reflect 
how I did not keep sincerely to the good desires which I had 

O my Lord, since it seems Thou art determined on my salvation 
and may it please Thy Majesty to save me ! and on granting 
me all the graces Thou hast bestowed on me already, why has 
it not seemed well to Thee, not for my advantage but for Thy 
honour, that this habitation wherein Thou hast had continually 
to dwell should not have become so greatly defiled? It grieves 
me, Lord, even to say this, since I know that the fault has been 
mine alone, for I believe there is nothing more Thou couldst 
have done, even from this early age, to make me wholly Thine. 
Nor, if I should feel inclined to complain of my parents, could 
I do so, for I saw nothing in them but every kind of good and 
anxiety for my welfare. But as I ceased to be a child and began 
to become aware of the natural graces which the Lord had given 
me, and which were said to be many, instead of giving Him 
thanks for them, as I should, I started to make use of them to 
offend Him. This I shall now explain. 


Describes how these virtues were gradually lost and how important' it 
is in childhood to associate with people of virtue. 

What I shall now describe was, I think, something which began 
to do me great harm. I sometimes reflect how wrong it is of 
parents not to contrive that their children shall always, and in 
every way, see things which are good. My mother, as I have said, 

1 Actually, as we have seen, she was thirteen. Dona Beatriz made her will, shortly 
before her death, on November 24, 1528. 

2 Tradition has it that the image was one which is now m Avila Cathedral, and 
that Teresa and Rodrigo also* commended themselves to this Virgin before setting 
out to be martyred. Yearly, on October 15, a ceremony commemorating the event 
described in the text takes place in Avila. 

II] LIFE 13 

was very good herself, but, when I came to the age of reason, 

I copied her goodness very little, in fact hardly at all, and evil 

things did me a great deal of harm. She was fond of books of 

chivalry; and this pastime had not the ill effects on her that it 

had on me, because she never allowed them to interfere with her 

work. But we^were always trying to make time to read them; and 

she permitted this, perhaps in order to stop herself from thinking 

of the great trials she suffered, and to keep her children occupied 

so that in other respects they should not go astray. This annoyed 

my father so much that we had to be careful lest he should see 

us reading these books. For myself, I began to make a habit of 

it, and this little fault which I saw in my mother began to cool 

my good desires and lead me to other kinds of wrongdoing. 

I thought there was nothing wrong in my wasting many hours, 

by day 'and by night, in this useless occupation, even though I 

had to hide it from my father. So excessively was I absorbed in 

it that I believe, unless I had a new book, I was never happy. 

I began to deck myself out and to try to attract others by my 

appearance, taking great trouble with my hands and hair, 

using perfumes and all the vanities I could get and there were 

a good many of them, for I was very fastidious. There was 

nothing wrong with my intentions, for I should never have wanted 

anyone to offend God because of me. This great and excessive 

fastidiousness about personal appearance, together with other 

practices which I thought were in no way sinful, lasted for many 

years: I see now how wrong they must have been. I had some 

cousins, who were the only people allowed to enter my father's 

house: 1 he was very careful about this and I wish to God that 

he had been careful about my cousins too. For I now see the 

danger of intercourse, at an age when the virtues should be 

beginning to grow, with persons who, though ignorant of worldly 

vanity, arouse a desire for the world in others. These cousins 

were almost exactly of my own age or a little older than I. We 

always went about together; they were very fond of me; and I 

would keep our conversation on things that amused them and 

listen to the stories they told about their childish escapades and 

crazes, which were anything but edifying. What was worse, my 

soul began to incline to the thing that was the cause of all its 


If I had to advise parents, I should tell them to take great 
care about the people with whom their children associate at 

1 Don Alonso's brother, Don Francisco, had a house near his own, in the Plazuela de 
Santo Domingo, "where the seventeenth-century Discalced Carmelite monastery 
now stands. The cousins referred to were no doubt Don Francisco's children : he had 
at least four sons, as well as several daughters. 


such an age. Much harm may result from bad company and we 
are inclined by nature to follow what is worse rather than what 
is better. This was the case with me : I had a sister much older 
than myself, 1 from whom, though she was very good and chaste, 
I learned nothing, whereas from a relative whom we often had 
in the house I learned every kind of evil. This person was so 
frivolous in her conversation that my mother had tried very 
hard to prevent her from coming to the house, realizing what 
harm she might do me, but there were so many reasons for her 
coming that she was powerless. I became very fond of meeting 
this woman. I talked and gossiped with her frequently; she 
joined me in all my favourite pastimes; and she also introduced 
me to other pastimes and talked to me about all her conversations 
and vanities. Until I knew her (this was when I was about 
fourteen or perhaps more: by knowing her I mean becoming 
friendly with her and receiving her confidences) I do not think 
I had ever forsaken God by committing any mortal sin, or lost 
my fear of God, though I was much more concerned about my 
honour. 2 This last fear was strong enough to prevent me from 
forfeiting my honour altogether, and I cannot think that I would 
have acted differently about this for anything in the world; 
nor was there anyone in the world whom I loved enough to 
forfeit my honour for. So I might have had the strength 
not to sin against the honour of God, as my natural inclination 
led me not to go astray in anything which I thought concerned 
worldly honour, and I did not realize that I was forfeiting my 
honour in many other ways. 

I went to great extremes in my vain anxiety about this, though 
I took not the slightest trouble about what I must do to live a 
truly honourable life. All that I was seriously concerned about 
was that I should not be lost altogether. My father and sister 
were very sorry about this friendship of mine and often reproved 
me for it. But, as they could not prevent my friend from coming 
to the house, their efforts were of no avail, for when it came to 
doing anything wrong I was very clever. I am sometimes 
astonished at the harm which can be caused by bad company; 
if I had not experienced it I could not believe it. This is especially 
so when one is young, for it is then that the evil done is greatest. 
I wish parents would be warned by me and consider this very 
carefully. The result of my intercourse with this woman was to 

1 This was her half-sister, Dona Maria, her father's only daughter by his first wife. 

2 [The word konra, which St. Teresa uses in various senses good, bad and neutral 
I often render " reputation " or "good name", but in this context i e., of a girl of 
St. Teresa's age, living in the Spain of her day the translation "honour" does not 
seem too strong: indeed, the contrast which she makes between the two kinds of 
honra almost necessitates it] 

II] LIFE 15 

change me so much that I lost nearly all my soul's natural 
inclination to virtue, and was greatly influenced by her, and by 
another person who indulged in the same kinds of pastime. 

From this I have learned what great advantage comes from 
good companionship; and I am sure that if at that age I had 
been friendly with good people I should have remained sound 
in virtue. For, if at that time I had had anyone to teach me to 
fear God, my soul would have grown strong enough not to fall. 
Later, when the fear of God had entirely left me, I retained 
only this concern about my honour, which was a torture to me in 
everything that I did. When I thought that nobody would ever 
know, I was rash enough to do many things which were an 
offence both to my honour and to God. 

At first, I believe, these things did me harm. The fault, I 
think, was not my friend's but my own. For subsequently my 
own wickedness sufficed to lead me into sin, together with the 
servants we had, whom I found quite ready to encourage rne in 
all kinds of wrongdoing. Perhaps, if any of them had given me 
good advice, I might have profited by it; but they were as much 
blinded by their own interests as I was by desire. And yet I 
never felt the inclination to do much that was wrong, for I had a 
natural detestation of everything immodest and preferred passing 
the time t in good company. But, if an occasion of sin presented 
itself, the danger would be at hand and I should be exposing 
my father and brothers to it. From all this God delivered me, 
in such a way that, even against my own will, He seems to have 
contrived that I should not be lost, though this was not to come about 
so secretly as to prevent me from gravely damaging my reputation 
and arousing suspicions in my father. I could hardly have been 
following these vanities for three months when I was taken to a 
convent in the place where I lived, 1 in which children like myself, 
though less depraved in their habits than I, were being educated, 
The reason for this was- so carefully concealed that only one or 
two of my relatives and myself were aware of it. They had 
waited for an occasion to arise naturally; and now, as my sister 
had married, and I had no mother, I should have been alone in 
the house if I had not gone there, which would not have been 

So excessive was my father's love for me, and so complete was 
the deception which I practised on him, that he could never 
believe all the ill of me that I deserved and thus I never fell into 
disgrace with him. It had not been going on for long; and, 

1 This was the Augustinian convent of Our Lady of Grace, a foundation some 
twenty years old situated outside the city walls, which took girls from good families 
as boarders. 

1 6 LIFE [CHAP. 

although they had some idea of what I had been doing, nothing 
could have been said about it with any certainty. As I had such 
concern for my good name/ I had made the greatest efforts to 
keep it all secret, and I had not considered that it could not 
be kept secret from Him Who sees all things. O my God, what 
harm is done in the world by forgetfulness of this and by the 
belief that anything can be kept secret which is done against 
Thee! I am sure that much wrongdoing would be avoided if we 
realized that our business is to be on our guard, not against men, 
but against displeasing Thee. 

For the first week I suffered a great deal, though not so much 
from being in a convent as from the suspicion that everyone 
knew about my vanity. For I had already become tired of the life 
I had been leading; and even when I offended God I never ceased 
to be sorely afraid of Him and I tried to make my confessions 
as soon as possible after falling into sin. At first I was very restless; 
but within a week, perhaps even earlier, I was much happier than 
I had been in my father's house. All the nuns were pleased with 
me; for the Lord had given me grace, wherever I was, to please 
people, and so I became a great favourite. Although at that time 
I had the greatest possible aversion from being a nun, I was very 
pleased to see nuns who were so good; for in that house they were 
all very good completely blameless in their lives, devoted to 
their Rule and prudent in their behaviour. Yet in spite of this the 
devil did not cease tempting me and my friends outside tried to 
unsettle me by sending me messages. As that was not allowed, 
it soon came to an end, and my soul then began to return to the 
good habits of my earlier childhood and I realized what a great 
favour God does to those whom He places in the company of 
good people. It seems as if His Majesty was trying and trying 
again to find a way of bringing me back to Himself. Blessed be 
Thou, Lord, Who for so long h'ast suffered me! Amen. 

If my faults had not been so numerous, there is one thing 
which I think might have served as an excuse for them: that my 
intimacy with this person was of such a kind that I thought it 
might end satisfactorily on her marriage; 2 and both my con- 
fessor and other persons told me that in many respects I was not 


8 [St. Teresa's reference to this intimacy is so delicately vague that it is difficult 
for the translator not to express more /than she actually says. The interpretation 
here given to her words I have decided upon after some hesitation. Dissenting 
readers may choose between P. Gre"goire's "II s'agissait de relations qui semblaient 
pouvoir aboutir une alliance honorable pour moi", and Lewis's "The conversation 
I shared in was with one who, I thought, would do well in the estate of matrimony", 
the editor's footnote tnferring^that St. Teresa had " listened only to the story of her 
cousin's intended marriage". In default of other information I take the meaning 
to be that, as this woman was of marriageable (i e., mature) age, the writer assumed 

II] LIFE 17 

offending God. There was a nun who slept with those of us who 
were seculars and it was through her that the Lord seems to have 
been pleased to begin to give me light, as I shall now explain. 


Describes how good companionship helped to awaken desires in her and the 
way in which the Lord began to give her light concerning the delusion 
under which she had been suffering. 

As I began to enjoy the good and holy conversation of this nun, 
I grew to delight in listening to her, for she spoke well about God 
and was very discreet and holy. There was never a time, I think, 
when I did not delight in listening to her words. She began to 
tell me how she had come to be a nun through merely reading 
those words in the Gospel: Many are called but few chosen. 1 
She used to describe to me the reward which the Lord gives to 
those who leave everything for His sake. This good companion- 
ship began to eradicate the habits which bad companionship had 
formed in me, to bring back my thoughts to desires for eternal 
things, and to remove some of the great dislike which I had for 
being a nun, and which had become deeply engrained in me. If 
I saw anyone weeping as she prayed, or giving evidence of any 
other virtues, I now greatly envied her; for my heart was so hard 
in this respect that, even if I read the entire narrative of the 
Passion, I could not shed a tear; and this distressed me. 

I remained in this convent for a year and a half, and was much 
the better for it. I began to say a great many vocal prayers and 
to get all the nuns to commend me to God and pray that He 
would bring me to the state in which I was to serve Him. But 
I was still anxious not to be a nun, for God had not as yet been 
pleased to give me this desire, although I was also afraid of marri- 
age. By the end of my time there, I was much more reconciled to 
being a nun though not in that house, because of the very 
virtuous practices which I had come to hear that they observed 
and which seemed to me altogether excessive. There were a few 
of the younger ones who encouraged me in this feeling; if all the 
nuns had been of one opinion, it would have been much better 

that she would soon marry and their intimacy would come to an end : all would then 
be well that ended well. This seems a much more natural interpretation than one 
which represents St. Teresa as predicting her own marriage.] 
1 St. Matthew xx, 16. 


for me. I also had a close friend in another convent, 1 and this gave 
me the idea that, if I was to be a nun, I would go only to the house 
where she was. I thought more about pleasures of sense and vanity 
than of my soul's profit. These good thoughts about being a nun 
came to me from time to time but they soon left me and I could 
not persuade myself to become one. 

At this time, though I was not careless about my own im- 
provement, the Lord became more desirous of preparing me for 
the state of life which was best for me. He sent me a serious 
illness, which forced me to return to my father's house. When 
I got better, they took me to see my sister, who was living in a 
village. 2 She was so fond of me that, if she had had her way, 
I should never have left her. Her husband was also very fond of 
me at least, he showed me every kindness. This, too, I owe 
chiefly to the Lord, for I have always been well treated every- 
where, and yet the only service I have rendered Him is to be 
what I am. 

On the road leading to my sister's lived one of my father's 
brothers, 3 a widower, who was a very shrewd man and full of 
virtues. Him, too, the Lord was preparing for Himself: in his old 
age he gave up all that he had and became a friar, and he ended 
his life in such a w'ay that I believe he is now rejoicing in God. He 
wanted me to stay with him for some days. It was his practice 
to read good books in Spanish and his conversation was ordinarily 
about God and the vanity of the world. He made me read to 
him; and, although I did not much care for his books, I acted as 
though I did; for in the matter of pleasing others, even when I 
disliked doing it, I have been so excessively complacent, that in 
others it would have been a virtue, though in me it was a great 
fault because I was often very indiscreet. O God, in how many 
ways did His Majesty gradually prepare me for the state in which 
He was to be pleased to use me! In how many ways, against my 
own will, did He constrain me to exercise restraint upon myself! 4 
May He be blessed for ever. Amen. 

Though I stayed here for only a few days, such was the im- 
pression made on my heart by the words of God, both as read 
and as heard, and the excellence of my uncle's company, that I 
began to understand the truth, which I had learned as a child, 
that all things are nothing, and that the world is vanity and will 
soon pass away. I began to fear that, if I had died of my illness, 

1 Dona Juana Suarez, a nun in the Convent of the Incarnation at Avila, where 
St. Teresa afterwards professed. 

2 [Dona Maria, living at Gastellanos de la Canada. Cf. p 22, n. i, below J 
8 [Cf. p. 23, n. i, below.] 

* [Lit.: "did He force me to exercise force upon myself." The play upon words 
cannot be fully brought out by any satisfactory translation.] 

Ill] LIFE ig 

I should have gone to hell; and though, even then, I could not 
incline my will to being a nun, I saw that this was the best and 
safest state, and so, little by little, I determined to force myself to 
embrace it. 

This conflict lasted for three months. I used to try to convince 
myself by using the following argument. The trials and distresses 
of being a nun could not be greater than those of purgatory and 
I had fully deserved to be in hell. It would not be a great matter 
to spend my life as though I were in purgatory if afterwards 
I were to go straight to Heaven, which was what I desired. This 
decision, then, to enter the religious life seems to have been 
inspired by servile fear more than by love. The devil suggested to 
me that I could not endure the trials of the religious life as I had 
been so delicately brought up. This suggestion I met by telling 
him about the trials suffered by Christ and saying that it would not 
be too much for me to suffer a few for His sake. I must have 
thought that He would help me to bear them but that I cannot 
remember. I had many temptations in those days. 

I had now begun to suffer from serious fainting fits, together 
with fever; my health has always been poor. The fact that I had 
now become fond of good books gave me new life. I would read 
the epistles of Saint Jerome; 1 and these inspired me with such 
courage that I determined to tell my father of my decision, which 
was going almost as far as taking the habit; for my word of honour 
meant so much to me that I doubt if any reason would have 
sufficed to turn me back from a thing when I had once said I 
would do it. He was so fond of me that I was never able to get 
his consent, nor did the requests of persons whom I asked to speak 
with him about it succeed in doing so. The most I could obtain from 
him was permission to do as I liked after his death. As I distrusted 
myself and thought I might turn back out of weakness, this course 
seemed an unsuitable one. So I achieved my aim in another way, 
as I shall now explain. 

X A Spanish translation of these, by Juan de Molina, had been published at 
Valencia, in 1520. 



Describes how the Lord helped her to force herself to take the habit and tells 
oj the numerous infirmities which His Majesty began to send her. 

During this time, when I was considering these resolutions, I 
had persuaded one of my brothers, by talking to him about the 
vanity of the world, to become a friar, 1 and we agreed to set out 
together, very early one morning, for the convent where that friend 
of mine lived of whom I was so fond. In making my final decision, 
I had already resolved that I would go to any other convent in 
which I thought I could serve God better or which my father 
might wish me to enter, for by now I was concerned chiefly with 
the good of my soul and cared nothing for my comfort. I re- 
member and I really believe this is true that when I left my 
father's house my distress was so great that I do not think it will be 
greater when I die. It seemed to me as if every bone in my body 
were being wrenched asunder; for, as I had no love of God to 
subdue my love for my father and kinsfolk, everything was such 
a strain to me that, if the Lord had not helped me, no reflections 
of my own would have sufficed to keep me true to my purpose. 
But the Lord gave me courage to fight against myself and so I 
carried out my intention. 

When I took the habit, 2 the Lord at once showed me how 
great are His favours to those who use force with themselves in 
His service. No one realized that I had gone through all this; 
they all thought I had acted out of sheer desire. At the time 
my entrance into this new life gave me a joy so great that it has 
never failed me even to this day, and God converted the aridity 
of my soul into the deepest tenderness. Everything connected 
with the religious life caused me delight; and it is a fact that 
sometimes, when I was spending time in sweeping floors which 

1 Her younger brother Antonio, who became a Dominican, and later a Hieronymite. 
Then ill health compelled him to return to the world and he died in the Indies, in 


a The Convent of the Incarnation, Avila, is situated on the north side of the city, 
outside the walls. It had been founded in 1479, as a residence for ladies who were 
members of the Third Order of Carmel but later it was converted into a convent 
with the title of Our Lady of the Incarnation. As to the date of her entry into the 
Convent, there has been a great deal of doubt, but documents [published by P. 
Silveno m his appendices] appear to have established that she took the habit on 
November a, 1536, and made her solemn profession on November 3, 1537, at the ages 
of twenty-one and twenty-two respectively. [Previously Ribera's dates of 1535 and 
1536 had been generally accepted, though there was also evidence in favour of 1533 
and 1534]. Cf. Relation IV (p. 319, below) : "It is forty years since this nun took 
the habit." This was written in 1576. 

IV] LIFE 21 

I had previously spent on my own indulgence and adornment, and 
realized that I was now free from all those things, there came to 
me a new joy, which amazed me, for I could not understand 
whence it arose. Whenever I recall this, there is nothing, however 
hard, which I would hesitate to undertake if it were proposed to 
me. For I know now, by experience of many kinds, that if I 
strengthen my purpose by resolving to do a thing for God's sake 
alone, it is His will that, from the very beginning, my soul shall 
be afraid, so that my merit may be the greater; and if I achieve 
my resolve, the greater my fear has been, the greater will be my 
reward, and the greater, too, will be my retrospective pleasure. 
Even in this life His Majesty rewards such an act in ways that can 
be understood only by one who has enjoyed them. This I know by 
experience, as I have said, in many very serious matters; and so, 
if I were a person who had to advise others, I would never recom- 
mend anyone, when a good inspiration comes to him again and 
again, to hesitate to put it into practice because of fear; for, if one 
lives a life of detachment for God's sake alone, there is no reason 
to be afraid that things will turn out amiss, since He is all-power- 
ful. May He be blessed for ever. Amen. 

O Supreme Good! O my Rest! The favours which Thou 
hadst given me until now should have sufficed me, since by Thy 
compassion and greatness I had been brought, along so many 
devious ways, to a state so secure and to a house in which there 
were so many servants of God from whom I might take example 
and thus learn to grow in Thy service. When I remember the way 
I made my profession and the great determination and satisfaction 
with which I made it and the betrothal that I contracted with 
Thee, I do not know how to proceed any farther with my story. 
I cannot speak of this without tears, and they ought to be tears of 
blood, and my heart ought to break, and even that would be 
showing no great sorrow for the offences which I afterwards 
committed against Thee. It seems to me now that I was right not 
to wish for so great an honour, since I was to make such bad use 
of it. But Thou, my Lord, wert prepared to be offended by me 
for almost twenty years, during which time I made ill use of Thy 
favour, so that in the end I might become better. It would seem, 
my God, as if I had promised to break all the promises I had 
made Thee, although at the time that was not my intention. When 
I look back on these actions of mine, I do not know what my 
intention could have been. All this, my Spouse, reveals still more 
clearly the difference between Thy nature and mine. Certainly 
distress for my great sins is often tempered by the joy which 
comes to me at being the means of making known the multitude 
of Thy mercies. 


In whom, Lord, can they shine forth as in me, who with 
my evil deeds have thus obscured the great favours which Thou 
hadst begun to show me? Alas, my Creator! If I would make an 
excuse, I have none, and none is to blame but I. For, had I 
repaid Thee any part of the love which Thou hadst begun to show 
me, I could have bestowed it on none but Thyself; and had I but 
done this, everything would have been set right. But as I have 
not deserved this, nor had such good fortune, may Thy mercy, 
Lord, be availing for me. 

The change in my life, and in my diet, affected my health; 
and, though my happiness was great, it was not sufficient to cure 
me. My fainting-fits began to increase in number and I suffered 
so much from heart trouble that everyone who saw me was 
alarmed. I also had many other ailments. I spent my first year, 
therefore, in a very poor state of health, though I do not think 
I offended God very much during that time. My condition 
became so serious r for I hardly ever seemed to be fully conscious, 
and sometimes I lost consciousness altogether that my father 
made great efforts to find me a cure. As our own doctors could 
suggest none, he arranged for me to be taken to a place where 
they had a great reputation for curing other kinds of illness and 
said they could also cure mine. This friend whom I have 
spoken of as being in the house, and who was one of the seniors 
among the sisters, went with me. In the house where I was a 
nun, we did not have to make a vow of enclosure. I was there for 
nearly a year, and during three months of that time I suffered 
the greatest tortures from the drastic remedies which they applied 
to me. I do not know how I managed to endure them; and in 
fact, though I did endure them, my constitution was unable to 
stand them, as I shall explain. My treatment was to commence 
at the beginning of the summer and I had left the convent when 
the winter began. All the intervening time I spent in the house 
of the sister whom I referred to above as living in a village, waiting 
for the month of April, which was near at hand, so that I should 
not have to go and come back again. 1 

1 [This last phrase has puzzled the commentators. I take the meaning to be that 
St. Teresa went to stay with her sister, Dona Maria, who had married a certain Don 
Martin de Guzman y Barrientos, in the late autumn ("when the winter began" but it 
begins early on the Casuhan plateau), was under the supervision of the curandera, 
who lived near the sister, during the winter, and went to live with her, to take the 
intensive and painful course of treatment referred to in the text, in the following 
April, staying till July. It was presumably on a first visit to the curandera, made for 
the purpose of a consultation, that St. Teresa was accompanied by the older 
nun. But Becedas, where the curandera lived, was over forty miles from Avila, 
whereas Dona Maria's village of Castellanos de la Canada was quite near 
Becedas, so that by going to stay with her sister she saved herself long journeys 
during the winter. TTbis interpretation seems to me the only one which fits all 
the facts.] 

IV] LIFE 23 

On the way there, I stopped at the house of this uncle of mine, 
which, as I have said, was on the road, and he gave me a book 
called Third Alphabet, which treats of the Prayer of Recollection. 1 
During this first year I had been reading good books (I no longer 
wanted to read any others, for I now realized what harm they 
had done me) but I did not know how to practise prayer, or how 
to recollect myself, and so I was delighted with the book and 
determined to follow that way of prayer with all my might. As 
by now the Lord had granted me the gift of tears, and I liked 
reading, I began to spend periods in solitude, to go frequently to 
confession and to start upon the way of prayer with this book for 
my guide. For I found no other guide (no confessor, I mean) 
who understood me, though I sought one for fully twenty years 
subsequently to the time I am speaking of. This did me great 
harm, as I had frequent relapses, and might have been completely 
lost; a guide would at least have helped me to escape when I 
found myself running the risk of offending God. 

In these early days His Majesty began to grant me so many 
favours that at the end of this entire period of solitude, which lasted 
for almost nine months, although I was not so free from offending 
God as the book said one should be, I passed over that, for such 
great care seemed to me almost impossible. I was particular about 
not committing mortal sin and would to God I had always been 
so! But about venial sins I troubled very little and it was this 
which brought about my fall. Still, the Lord began to be so 
gracious to me on this way of prayer that He granted me v the 
favour of leading me to the Prayer of Quiet, and occasionally 
even to Union, though I did not understand what either of these 
was, or how highly they were to be valued. Had I understood 
this I think it would have been a great blessing. It is true that my 
experience of Union lasted only a short time; I am not sure that 
it can have been for as long as an Ave Maria; but the results of it 
were so considerable, and lasted for so long that, although at this 
time I was not twenty years old, 2 I seemed to have trampled the 
world beneath my feet, and I- t remember that I used to pity those 
who still clung to it, even in things that were lawful. I used to try 
to think of Jesus Christ, our Good and our Lord, as present within 
me, and it was in this way that I prayed. If I thought about any 
incident in His life, I would imagine it inwardly, though I liked 
principally to read good books, and this constituted the whole of 

1 The uncle, Don Pedro, lived at Hortigosa, a village on the road to Gastellanos. 
.The Discalced Carmelite community of St. Joseph, at Avila, still preserves the 
copy of Francisco de Osuna's Third Spiritual Alphabet [cf, SS M* y I, 79-131] here 
referred to. 

* [St. Teresa must have been mistaken. She cannot possibly have been less than 
twenty-three and was probably a little older.] 


my recreation. For God had not given me talents for reasoning 
with the understanding or for making good use of the imagination : 
my imagination is so poor that, even when I thought about 
the Lord's Humanity, or tried to imagine it to myself, as I was 
in the habit of doing, I never succeeded. And although, if they 
persevere, people may attain more quickly to contemplation by 
following this method of not labouring with the understanding, 
it is a very troublesome and painful process. For if the will has 
nothing to employ it and love has no present object with which 
to busy itself, the soul finds itself without either support or occu- 
pation, its solitude and aridity cause it great distress and its 
thoughts involve it in the severest conflict. 

People in this condition need greater purity of conscience than 
those who can labour with the understanding. For anyone 
meditating on the nature of the world, on his duties to God, on 
God's great sufferings and on what he himself is giving to Him 
Who loves him, will find in his meditations instruction for de- 
fending himself against his thoughts and against perils and 
occasions of sin. Anyone unable to make use of this method is in 
much greater danger and should occupy himself frequently in 
reading, since he cannot find instruction in any other way. 
And inability to do this is so very painful that, if the master who 
is directing him forbids him to read and thus find help for re- 
collection, reading is none the less necessary for him, however 
little it may be, as a substitute for the mental prayer which he is 
unable to practise. I mean that if he is compelled to spend a 
great deal of time in prayer without this aid it will be impossible 
for him to persist in it for long, and if he does so it will endanger 
his health, since it is a very painful process. 

I believe now that it was through the Lord's good providence 
that I found no one to teach me; for, had I done so, it would have 
been impossible, I think, for me to persevere during the eighteen 
years for which I had to bear this trial and these great aridities, due, 
as I say, to my being unable to meditate. During all these years,- 
except after communicating, I never dared begin to pray without 
a book; my soul was as much afraid to engage in prayer without 
one as if it were having to go and fight against a host of enemies. 
With this help, which was a companionship to me and a shield 
with which I could parry the blows of my many thoughts, I felt 
comforted. For it was not usual with me to suffer from aridity: 
this only came when I had no book, whereupon my soul would at 
once become disturbed and my thoughts would begin to wander. 
As soon as I started to read they began to collect themselves 
and the book acted like a bait to my soul. Often the mere fact 
that I had it by me was sufficient. Sometimes I read a little, 

IV] LIFE 25 

sometimes a great deal, according to the favour which the Lord 
showed me. It seemed to me, in these early stages of which I am 
speaking, that, provided I had books and could be alone, there 
was no risk of my being deprived of that great blessing; and I 
believe that, by the help of God, this would have been the case if 
at the beginning I had had a master or some other person to 
advise me how to flee from occasions of sin, and, if I fell before 
them, to get me quickly free from them. If at that time the devil 
had attacked me openly, I believe I should never in any way 
have begun to sin grievously again. But he was so subtle, and I 
was so weak, that all my resolutions were of little profit to me, 
though, in the days when I served God, they became very profit- 
able indeed, in that they enabled me to bear the terrible infirmities 
which came to me with the great patience given me by His 

I have often reflected with amazement upon God's great 
goodness and my soul has delighted in the thought of His great 
magnificence and mercy. May He be blessed for all this, for it 
has become clear to me that, even in this life, He has not failed to 
reward me for any of my good desires. However wretched and im- 
perfect my good works have been, this Lord of mine has been 
improving them, perfecting them and making them of greater 
worth, and yet hiding my evil deeds and my sins as soon as they 
have been committed. He has even allowed the eyes of those 
who have seen them to be blind to them and He blots them from 
their memory. He gilds my faults and makes some virtue of 
mine to shine forth in splendour; yet it was He Himself Who 
gave it me and almost forced me to possess it. 

I will now return and do what I have been commanded. I 
repeat that, if I had to describe in detail the way in which the 
Lord dealt with me in these early days, I should need much more 
intelligence than I have so as to be able to appreciate what I 
owe to Him, together with my own ingratitude and wickedness, 
all of which I have forgotten. May He be for ever blesssed, Who 
has endured me for so long. Amen. 



Continues to tell of the grievous infirmities which she suffered and of the 
patience given her by the Lord, and of how He brings good out of 
evil, as will be seen from an incident which happened to her in the 
place where she went for treatment. 

I forgot to tell how, in the year of my novitiate, I suffered long 
periods of unrest about things which in themselves were of little 
importance. I was very often blamed when the fault was not 
mine. This I bore very imperfectly, and with great distress of 
mind, although I was able to endure it all because of my great 
satisfaction at being a nun. When they saw me endeavouring 
to be alone and sometimes weeping for my sins, they thought that 
I was discontented and said so. I was fond of everything to do with 
the religious life but I could not bear anything which seemed to 
make me ridiculous. I delighted in being thought well of; I was 
particular about everything I did; and all this I thought was a 
virtue, though that cannot serve me as an excuse, because I 
knew how to get pleasure for myself out of everything and so 
my wrong-doing cannot be excused by ignorance. Some excuse 
may be found in the imperfect organization of the convent. But 
I, in my wickedness, followed what I knew to be wrong and 
neglected what was good. 

At that time there was a nun who was afflicted by a most 
serious and painful illness : she was suffering from open sores in 
the stomach, which had been caused by obstructions, and these 
forced her to reject all her food. Of this illness she soon died. 
I saw that all the nuns were afraid of it but for my own part I had 
only great envy of her patience. I begged' God that He would 
send me any illness He pleased if only He would make me as 
patient as she. I do not think I was in the least afraid of being ill, 
for I was so anxious 'to win eternal blessings that I was resolved 
to win l^iem by any means whatsoever. And I am surprised at 
this; for, although I had not then, I think, such love for God as I 
have had since I began to pray, I had light enough to realize 
how trivial is the value of all things that pass away and how great 
is the worth of blessings which can be gained by despising them, 
for these are eternal. Well, His Majesty heard my prayer; 
for, before two years had passed, I myself had an illness which, 
though not of the same kind, was, I think, no less painful and 
troublesome. And this I suffered for three years, as I shall now 

V] LIFE 27 

When the time had come which I was awaiting in the place 
where, as I said, I was staying with my sister before undergoing 
my treatment, I was taken away, with the greatest solicitude 
for my comfort, by my father and sister and that nun who was 
my friend and had accompanied me when I had first left the convent 
because she loved me so dearly. It was now that the devil began 
to unsettle my soul, although God turned this into a great blessing. 
There was a priest 1 who lived in the place where I had gone for 
the treatment : he was a man of really good family and great 
intelligence, and also of some learning, though not a great deal. 
I began to make my confessions to him, for I have always been 
attracted by learning, though confessors with only a little of it 
have done my soul great harm, and I have not always found men 
who had as much of it as I should have liked. I have discovered 
by experience that if they are virtuous and lead holy lives it is 
better they should have none at all than only a little; for then they 
do not trust themselves (nor would I myself trust them) unless 
they have first consulted those who are really learned; but a 
truly learned man has never led me astray. Not that these others 
can have meant to lead me astray: it is simply that they have 
known no better. I had supposed that they did and that my only 
obligation was to believe them, as they spoke to me in a very 
broad-minded way and gave me a great deal of freedom : if they 
had been strict, I am so wicked that I should have looked for 
others. What in reality was venial sin, they would tell me was 
no sin at all; and the most grievous of mortal sins was to them only 
venial. This did me such harm that it is not surprising if I speak 
of it here to warn others against so great an evil, for I see clearly 
that in God's sight I have no excuse; the fact that the things I did 
were themselves not good should have been sufficient to keep 
me from doing them. I believe God permitted these confessors 
to be mistaken and lead me astray because of my own sins. I 
myself led many others astray by repeating to them what had 
been told me. I continued in this state of blindness, I believe, 
for more than seventeen years, until a Dominican Father, 2 who 
was a very learned man, undeceived me about certain things, 
and the Fathers of the Company of Jesus 3 made me very much 
afraid about my whole position by representing to me the gravity 
of these unsound principles, as I shall explain later. 

After I had begun to make my confessions to this priest of whom 
I am speaking, he took an extreme liking to me, for at that time 

1 [Lit : "a person of the Church", but the context makes the meaning clear.] 

2 P. Vicente Barr6n, a theologian of repute, -who was also her father's confessor 

8 [Spanish -writers always describe the Society of Jesus as the "Company 1 * and that 
word is kept throughout this translation.] 


I had little to confess by comparison with what I had later 
I had not really had much ever since I became a nun. There was 
nothing wrong in his affection for me, but it ceased to be good 
because there was too much of it. He realized that nothing 
whatever would induce me to commit any grave offence against 
God and he assured me that it was the same with him, and so 
we talked together a good deal. But at that time, full of love for 
God as I was, my greatest delight in conversation was to speak 
about Him; and, as I was such a child, this caused him confusion, 
and, out of the great affection that he had for me, he began to 
tell me about his unhappy condition. It was no small matter: 
for nearly seven years he had been in a most perilous state because 
of his affection for a woman in that very place, with whom he 
had had a good deal to do. Nevertheless, he continued saying 
Mass. The fact that he had lost his honour and his good name 
was quite well known, yet no one dared to reprove him for it. 
I was sorry for him because I liked him very much : at that time 
I was so frivolous and blind that I thought it a virtue to be grate- 
ful and loyal to anyone who liked me. Cursed be such loyalty 
when it goes so far that it militates against loyalty to God ! This 
is a bewildering folly common in the world and it certainly 
bewilders me. For we owe to God all the good that men show us, 
yet we consider it a virtue not to break off friendships with men 
even if they cause us to act contrarily to His will. O blindness of 
the world ! May it please Thee, Lord, that I may be completely 
lacking in gratitude to the whole world provided that in no 
respect I lack gratitude to Thee. But exactly the reverse has been 
true of me, because of my sins. 

I got to know more about this priest by making enquiries of 
members of his household. I then realized what great trouble 
the poor man had got himself into and found that it was not 
altogether his own fault. For the unhappy woman had cast a 
spell over him, giving him a little copper figure and begging him, 
for love of her, to wear it round his neck, and no one had been 
able to persuade him to take it off. Now, with regard to this 
particular incident of the spell, I do not believe there is the least 
truth in it. But I will relate what I saw, in order to warn men to 
be on their guard against women who try to do such things to 
them. Let them be sure that, if women (who are more bound to 
lead chaste lives even than men) lose all shame in the sight of 
God, there is nothing whatever in which they can be trusted. 
In order to obtain the pleasure of following their own will and 
an affection inspired in them by the devil, they will stop at 
nothing. Wicked as I have been, I have never fallen into any sin 
of this kind, nor have I ever tried to do wrong in this way; and, 

V] LIFE 29 

even if I could have done so, I should never have wanted to 
force anyone's affection in my favour, for the Lord has kept me 
from this. If He had forsaken me, however, I should have done 
wrong in this respect, as I have done in others, for I am in no 
way to be trusted. 

When I heard about this spell I began to show the priest 
greater affection. My intentions here were good, but my action 
was wrong, for one must never do the smallest thing that is wrong 
in order to do good, however great. As a rule, I used to speak to 
him about God. This must have done something to help him, 
although I believe his liking for me did more; for, in order to 
please me, he gave me the little figure, which I at once got some- 
one to throw into a river. When he had done this, he became 
like a man awakening from a deep sleep and he began to recall 
everything that he had been doing during those years. He was 
amazed at himself and grieved at his lost condition and he began 
to hate the woman who had led him to it. Our Lady must 
have been a great help to him, for he was most devoted to her 
Conception and he used to keep the day commemorating it as a 
great festival. In the end, he gave up seeing the woman, and 
never wearied of giving thanks to God for having granted him 
light. Exactly a year from the day when I first saw him he died. 
He had been active in God's service and I never thought there 
was anything wrong in the great affection that he had for me, 
although it might have been purer. There were also occasions 
when, if he had not had recourse to the presence of God, he might 
have committed the gravest offences. As I have said, I would not 
at that time have done anything which I believed to be a mortal 
sin. And I think his realization that that was so increased his 
affection for me; for I believe all men must have greater affection 
for women when they see them inclined to virtue. Even in order 
to obtain their earthly desires, women can get more from men in 
this way, as I shall explain later. I am convinced that that priest 
is in the way of salvation. He died very devoutly and completely 
delivered from that occasion of sin. It seems that the Lord's will 
was that he should be saved by these means. 

I remained in that place for three months, suffering the 
greatest trials, for the treatment was more drastic than my 
constitution could stand. At the end of two months, the severity 
of the remedies had almost ended my life, and the pain in my 
heart, which I had gone there to get treated, was much worse; 
sometimes I felt as if sharp teeth had hold of me, and so severe 
was the pain they caused that it was feared I was going mad. 
My strength suffered a grave decline, for I could take nothing 
but liquid, had a great distaste for food, was in a continual fever, 


and became so wasted away that, after they had given me 
purgatives daily for almost a month, I was, as it were, so shrivelled 
up that my nerves began to shrink. These symptoms were 
accompanied by intolerable pain which gave me no rest by night 
or by day. Altogether I was in a state of great misery. 

Seeing that I had gained nothing here, my father took me away 
and once again called in the doctors. They all gave me up, 
saying that, quite apart from everything else, I was consumptive. 
This troubled me very little : it was the pains that distressed me, 
for they racked me from head to foot and never ceased. Nervous 
pains, as the doctors said., are intolerable, and, as all my 
nerves had shrunk, this would indeed have been terrible torture 
if it had not all been due to my own fault. I could not have 
been in this serious state for more than three months : it seemed 
impossible that so many ills could all be endured at the same 
time. I am astonished at myself now and consider the patience 
which His Majesty gave me to have been a great favour from the 
Lord, for, as could clearly be seen, it was from Him that it came. 
It was a great help to my patience that I had read the story of 
Job in the Morals of St. Gregory, 1 for the Lord seems to have 
used this for preparing me to suffer. It was also a help that I 
had begun the practice of prayer, so that I could bear everything 
with great resignation. All my conversation was with God. 
I had continually in mind these words of Job, which I used to 
repeat: Since we have received good things at the hand of the 
Losd, why shall we not suffer evil things? 2 This seemed to give 
me strength. 

And now the August festival of Our Lady came round: I 
had been in torment ever since April, though the last three months 
were the worst. I hastened to go to confession, for I was always 
very fond of frequent confession. They thought that this was 
due to fear of death, and, in order that I should not be distressed, 
my father forbade me to go. Oh, what an excess of human love! 
Though my father was so good a Catholic and so wise for he 
was extremely wise and so was not acting through ignorance 
he might have done me great harm. That night I had a fit, 
which left me unconscious for nearly four days. 3 During that 

1 The Discalced nuns of St. Joseph's, Avila, have an edition of St. Gregory's Morals, 
in two volumes, which, according to an inscription in the second volume, were read 
and marked by St. Teresa. Both in these volumes, however, and in the Alphabet, 
it can be stated with confidence that the majority of the marks were not made by 
the Saint. 

2 Job ii, 10. 

3 According to Ribera (Bk. I, Chap. VII), she was believed to be dead, a grave 
was dug for her at the Incarnation and nuns came from that convent to keep vigil 
by her body Her father, however, was convinced that there was stall life in her and 
refused to consent to the burial. 

V] LIFE 31 

time they gave me the Sacrament of Unction, and from hour 
to hour, from moment to moment, thought I was dying; they 
did nothing but repeat the Greed to me, as though I could have 
understood any of it. There must have been times when they 
were sure I was dead, for afterwards I actually found some 
wax on my eyelids. 

My father was in great distress because he had not allowed me 
to go to confession. Many cries and prayers were made for me 
to God. Blessed be He Who was pleased to hear them! For a 
day and a half there was an open grave in my convent, where 
they were awaiting my body, and in one of the monasteries of 
our Order, some way from here, they had performed the rites for 
the dead. But it pleased the Lord that I should return to con- 
sciousness. I wished at once to go to confession. I communicated 
with many tears; but they were not, I think, tears of sorrow and 
distress due only to my having offended God, which might have 
sufficed to save me, if there had not been sufficient excuse for me 
in the way I was misled by those who had told me that certain 
things were not mortal sins which I have since seen clearly were 
so. My sufferings were so intolerable that I hardly had the power 
to think, though I believe my confession was complete as to all 
the ways in which I was conscious of having offended God. There 
is one grace, among others, which His Majesty has granted me: 
never since I began to communicate have I failed to confess 
anything which I thought to be a sin, even if only a venial one. 
But I think that without doubt, if I had died then, my salvation 
would have been very uncertain, because my confessors, on the 
one hand, were so unlearned, and because I, on the other, was 
so wicked, and for many other reasons. 

The fact is, when I come to this point, and realize how the 
Lord seems to have raised me from the dead, I am so amazed 
that inwardly I am almost trembling. It would be well, O my 
soul, if thou wouldst look at the danger from which the Lord 
has delivered thee, so that if thou didst not cease to offend Him 
through love, thou shouldst do so through fear. He might have 
slain thee on any of a thousand other occasions and in a more 
perilous state still. I do not believe I am straying far from 
the truth when I say "a thousand", though I may be reproved 
by him who has commanded me to be temperate in recounting 
my sins, which I have presented in a light only too favourable. 
I beg him, for the love of God, to excuse none of my faults, 
for they only reveal the magnificence of God and His longsuffering 
to the soul. May He be blessed for ever. And may it please 
His Majesty that I be utterly consumed rather than cease to love 



Describes all that she owed to the Lord for granting her resignation in 
such great trials; and how she took the glorious Saint Joseph for 
her mediator and advocate; and the great profit that this brought 

After this fit, which lasted for four days, I was in such a state 
that only the Lord can know what intolerable sufferings I 
experienced. My tongue was bitten to pieces; nothing had 
passed my lips ; and because of this and of my great weakness 
my throat was choking me so that I could not even take water. 
All my bones seemed to be out of joint and there was a terrible 
confusion in my head. As a result of the torments I had suffered 
during these days, I was all doubled up, like a ball, and no more 
able to move arm, foot, hand or head than if I had been dead, 
unless others moved them for me. I could move, I think, only 
one finger of my right hand. It was impossible to let anyone 
come to see me, for I was in such a state of distress that I could 
not endure it. They used to move me in a sheet, one taking 
one end and another the other. This lasted until Easter Sunday. 1 
My only alleviation was that, if no one came near me, my 
pains often ceased ; and when I had rested a little I used to think 
I was getting well. For I was afraid my patience would fail me; 
so I was very glad when I found myself without such sharp 
and constant pains, although I could hardly endure the .terrible 
cold fits of quartan ague, from which I still suffered and which 
were very severe. I still had a dreadful distaste for food. 

I was now so eager to return to the convent that they had 
me taken there. So, instead of the dead body they had expected, 
the nuns received a living soul; though the body was worse 
than dead and distressing to behold. My extreme weakness 
cannot be described, for by this time I was nothing but bones. 
As I have said, I remained in this condition for more than 
eight months, and my paralysis, though it kept improving, 
continued for nearly three years. When I began to get about 
on my hands and knees, I praised God. All this^ I bore with 
great resignation, ^and, except at the beginning, with great 
joy; for none of it could compare with the pains and torments 
which I had suffered at first. I was quite resigned to the will 
of God, even if He had left me in this condition for ever. My 
great yearning, I think, was to get well so that I might be alone 

1 \fascuajiorida. Lewis (p. 33) erroneously translates "Palm Sunday".] 

VI] LIFE 33 

when I prayed, as I had been taught to be there was no possi- 
bility of this in the infirmary. I made my confession very fre- 
quently, and talked a great deal about God, in such a way 
that all were edified and astonished at the patience which the 
Lord gave me; for if it had not come from His Majesty's hand 
it would have seemed impossible to be able to endure such great 
sufferings with such great joy. 

It was a wonderful thing for me to have received the grace 
which God had granted me through prayer, for this made 
me realize what it was to love Him. After a short time I found 
these virtues were renewed within me, although not in great 
strength, for they were not sufficient to uphold me in righteous- 
ness. I never spoke ill of anyone in the slightest degree, for 
my usual practice was to avoid all evil-speaking. I used to 
remind myself that I must not wish or say anything about 
anyone which I should not like to be said of me. I was extremely 
particular about observing this rule on all possible occasions, 
although I was not so perfect as not to fail now and then when 
faced with difficult situations. Still, that was my usual habit; 
and those who were with me and had to do with me were so 
much struck by it that they made it a habit too. It came to 
be realized that in my presence people could turn their backs 
to me and yet be quite safe; and so, too, they were with my 
friends and kinsfolk and those who learned from me. But in 
other respects I shall have to give a strict account to God for 
the bad example which I set them. May it please His Majesty 
to forgive me, for I have been the cause of much wrongdoing, 
though my intentions were not so harmful as were the actions 
which resulted from them. 

My desire for solitude continued and I was fond of speak- 
ing and conversing about God; if I found anyone with whom 
I could do so, it gave me more joy and recreation than indul- 
gence in any of the refinements (which are really coarsenesses) 
of the conversation of the world. I communicated and con- 
fessed very much more frequently and this by my own wish; 
I loved reading good books; I was not sincerely penitent at 
having offended God; and I remember that often I dared not 
pray because I was afraid of the very deep distress which I 
should feel at having offended Him, and which was like a severe 
punishment. This continued to grow upon me and became 
such a torment that I do not know with what I can compare 
it. And its being greater or less had nothing to do with any 
fear of mine, for it would come when I thought of the favours 
which the Lord was giving me in prayer, and of all that I owed 
Him, and when I saw how ill I was requiting Him. I could not 


bear it; and I would grow very angry with myself at shedding 
so many tears for my faults, when I saw how little I improved 
and how neither my resolutions nor the trouble I took were 
sufficient to keep me from falling again when an occasion 
presented itself. My tears seemed to me deceptive and my 
faults the greater because I was conscious of the great favour 
which the Lord bestowed upon me in granting me these tears 
and this great repentance. I used to try to make my confession 
as soon as possible after I had fallen; and, I think, did all I 
could to return to grace. The whole trouble lay in my not 
cutting off the occasions of sin at the root, and in the scant 
help given me by my confessors. For, if they had told me how 
dangerous was the path I was taking and how incumbent 
upon me it was not to indulge in these conversations, I feel 
quite sure I could never have endured remaining in mortal 
sin for even a day with the knowledge that I was doing so. 
All these tokens of the fear of God came to me in prayer. The 
chief of them was that my fear was always swallowed up 1 in 
love, for I never thought about punishment. All the time I 
was so ill, I kept a strict watch over my conscience with respect 
to mortal sin. O God, how I longed for health that I might 
serve Thee better! And that was the cause of all my wrong- 

For when I found that, while still so young, I was so seriously 
paralysed, and that earthly doctors had been unable to cure 
me, I resolved to seek a cure from heavenly doctors, for, though 
I bore my sickness with great joy, I none the less desired to be 
well again. I often reflected that, if I were to grow well and 
then to incur damnation, it would be better for me to remain 
as I was; but still I believed that I should serve God much 
better if I recovered my health. That is the mistake we make : 
we do not leave ourselves entirely in the Lord's hands; yet 
He knows best what is good for us. 

I began by having Masses said for me, and prayers which 
had been fully approved; for I was never fond of other kinds 
of devotion which some people practise especially women 
together with ceremonies which I could never endure, but 
for which they have a great affection. Since then it has been 
explained to me that such things are unseemly and superstitious. 
I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph 
and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that 
this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble 
and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honour 2 

^[Envuelto. Lit.' "wrapped up", "swathed".] 
2 [Hcnra. Gf. p. 14, n. 2, above] 

VI] LIFE 35 

and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings 
than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that 
I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. 
I am astonished at the great favours which God has bestowed 
on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which 
He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints 
the Lord seems to have given grace to succour us in some of 
our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that 
he succours us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach 
us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being 
His guardian and being called His father, he could command 
Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has 
also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised 
to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are 
many who have great devotion to him through having newly 
experienced this truth. 

I used to try to keep his feast with the greatest possible 
solemnity 1 ; but, though my intentions were good, I would 
observe it with more vanity than spirituality, for I always wanted 
things to be done very meticulously and well. I had this unfortu- 
nate characteristic that, if the Lord gave me grace to do any- 
thing good, the way I did it was full of imperfections and 
extremely faulty. I was very assiduous and skilful in 
wrong-doing and in my meticulousness and vanity. May the 
Lord forgive me. I wish I could persuade everyone to be 
devoted to this glonous saint, for I have great experience 
of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never 
known anyone be truly devoted to him and render him par- 
ticular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he 
gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. 
For some years now, I think, I have made some request of him 
every year on his festival and I have always had it granted. 
If my petition is in any way ill directed, he directs it aright 
for my greater good. 

If I were a person writing with authority, I would gladly 
describe, at greater length and in the minutest detail, the favours 
which this glorious saint has granted to me and to others. 
But in order not to do more than I have been commanded 
I shall have to write about many things briefly, much more 
so than I should wish, and at unnecessarily great length about 
others : in short, I must act like one who has little discretion in 
all that is good. I only beg, for the love of God, that anyone 

1 In many Spanish convents at this time it was customary to allow any nun who 
could afford to do so to pay the expenses of the yearly festival of some one saint to 
whom she might be particularly devoted. This custom obtained at the Incarnation. 


who does not believe me will put what I say to the test, and 
he will see by experience what great advantages come from his 
commending himself to this glorious patriarch and having 
devotion to him. Those who practise prayer should have a special 
affection for him always. I do not know how anyone can think 
of the Queen of the Angels, during the time that she suffered 
so much with the Child Jesus, without giving thanks to Saint 
Joseph for the way he helped them. If anyone cannot find a 
master to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious 
saint as his master and he will not go astray. May the Lord 
grant that I have not erred in venturing to speak of him; for 
though I make public acknowledgment of my devotion to 
him, in serving and imitating him I have always failed. He 
was true to his own nature when he cured my paralysis and 
gave me the power to rise and walk; and I am following my 
own nature in using this favour so ill. 

Who would have said that I should fall so soon, after receiving 
so many favours from God, and after His Majesty had begun 
to grant me virtues which themselves aroused me to serve Him; 
after I had seen myself at death's door and in such great peril 
of damnation ; after He had raised me up, in soul and in body, 
so that all who saw me were amazed to see me alive? What 
it is, my Lord, to have to live a life so full of perils ! For here 
I am writing this, and it seems to me that with Thy favour 
and through Thy mercy I might say with Saint Paul, though 
not so perfectly as he: For it is not I now who live, but Thou, 
my Creator, livest in me. 1 For some years, so far as I can see, 
Thou hast held me by Thy hand, and I find I have desires and 
resolutions tested to a certain extent, during these years, in 
many ways, by experience to do nothing contrary to Thy 
will, however trifling it may be, though I must often have caused 
Thy Majesty numerous offences without knowing it. It seems 
to me, too, that nothing can present itself to me which I would 
not with great resolution undertake for love of Thee, and some 
of these things Thou hast helped me successfully to* accomplish. 
I desire neither the world nor anything that is worldly, and 
nothing seems to give me pleasure unless it comes from Thee: 
everything else seems to me a heavy cross. I may well be mistaken 
and it may be that I have not the desire that I have described; 
but Thou seest, my Lord, that, so far as I can understand, I 
am not lying. I am afraid, and with good reason, that Thou 
mayest once more forsake me; for I know well how little my 
strength and insufficiency of virtue can achieve if Thou be not 
ever granting me Thy grace and helping me not to forsake 

1 Galatians ii, 20. 

VI] LIFE 37 

Thee. May it please Thy Majesty that I be not forsaken by Thee 
even now, while I am thinking all this about myself. I do not 
know why we wish to live, when everything is so uncertain. 
I used to think, my Lord, that it was impossible to forsake 
Thee wholly; yet how many times have I forsaken Thee! I 
cannot but fear; for, when Thou didst withdraw from me but a 
little, I fell utterly to the ground. Blessed be Thou for ever! 
For, though I have forsaken Thee, Thou hast not so completely 
forsaken me as not to raise me up again by continually giving 
me Thy hand. Often, Lord, I would not take it, and often 
when Thou didst call me a second time I would not listen, as 
I shall now relate. 


Descnbes how she began to lose the favours which the Lord had granted 
her and how evil her life became. Treats of the harm that comes 
to convents from laxity in the observance of the rule of enclosure. 

I began, then, to indulge in one pastime after another, in 
one vanity after another and in one occasion of sin after another. 
Into so many and such grave occasions of sin did I fall, and 
so far was my soul led astray by all these vanities, that I was 
ashamed to return to God and to approach Him in the intimate 
friendship which comes from prayer. This shame was increased 
by the fact that, as my sins grew in number, I bgan to lose the 
pleasure and joy which I had been deriving from virtuous things. 
I saw very clearly, my Lord, that this was failing me because 
I was failing Thee. The devil, beneath the guise of humility, 
now led me into the greatest of all possible errors. Seeing that 
I was so utterly lost, I began to be afraid to pray. It seemed to 
me better, since in my wickedness I was one of the worst people 
alive, to live like everyone else; to recite, vocally, the prayers 
that I was bound to say; and not to practise mental prayer or 
hold so much converse with God, since I deserved to be with 
the devils, and, by presenting an outward appearance of good- 
ness, was only deceiving others. No blame for this is to be 
attributed to the house in which I lived, for I was clever enough 
to see to it that the nuns had a good opinion of me, though I 
did not do so deliberately, by pretending to be a good Christian, 
for in the matter of vainglory and hypocrisy glory be to God! I 
do not remember having even once offended Him, so far as I 
am aware. For if ever I perceived within myself the first 
motions of such a thing, it distressed me so much that the devil 


would depart confounded and I would be all the better for it; 
so he has very seldom tempted me much in this way. Perhaps, 
if God had permitted me to be tempted as severely in this respect 
as in others, I should have fallen here too, but so far His Majesty 
has kept me from this. May He be for ever blessed. In reality, 
therefore, I was very much troubled that they should have 
such a good opinion of me, as I knew what sort of person I was 

This belief which they had that I was not so wicked was 
the result of their seeing me, young though I was and exposed 
to so many occasions of sin, withdrawing myself frequently into 
solitude, saying my prayers, reading a great deal, speaking 
about God, liking to have pictures of Him in a great many 
places, wanting an oratory of my own, trying to get objects of 
devotion for it, refraining from evil-speaking and doing other 
things of that kind which gave me the appearance of being 
virtuous. I myself was vain and liked to be well thought of in 
the things wont to be esteemed by the world. On account of 
this they gave me as much liberty as is given to the oldest nuns, 
and even more, and they had great confidence in me. For I 
did no such things as taking liberties for myself or doing any- 
thing without leave such as talking to people through crevices 
or over walls or by night and I do not think I could ever have 
brought myself to talk in such a way with anyone in the convent, 
for the Lord held me by His hand. It seemed to me for there 
were many things which I used to ponder deliberately and 
with great care that it would be very wrong of me to compromise 
the good name of so many of the sisters when I was wicked 
and they were good: just as though all the other things that 
I did had been good! In truth, though I often acted very 
wrongly, my faults were never so much the result of a set purpose 
as those others would have been. 

For that reason, I think it was a very bad thing for me not 
to be in a convent that was enclosed. The freedom which the 
sisters, who were good, might enjoy without becoming less so 
(for they were not obliged to live more strictly than they did 
as they had not taken a vow of enclosure) would certainly have 
led me, who am wicked, down to hell, had not the Lord, through 
very special favours, using means and remedies which are all 
His own, delivered me from this peril. It seems to me, then, that 
it is a very great danger for women in a convent to have such 
freedom: for those who want to be wicked it is not so much a 
remedy for their weaknesses as a step on the way to hell. But 
this is not to be applied to my convent, where there are so many 
who servfe the Lord in very truth and with great perfection, so 


that His Majesty, in His goodness, cannot fail to help them. 
Nor is it one of those which are completely open, for all religious 
observances are kept in it: I am comparing it now with others 
which I know and have seen. 

This seems to me, as I say, a great pity; for, when a convent 
follows standards and allows recreations which belong to the 
world, and the obligations of the nuns are so ill understood, 
the Lord has perforce to call each of them individually, and not 
once but many times, if they are to be saved. God grant that 
they may not all mistake sin for virtue, as I so often did ! It is very 
difficult to make people see this and the Lord must needs take 
the matter right into His own hands. Parents seem to give little 
thought to the placing of their daughters where they may walk 
in the way of salvation, but allow them to run into more danger 
than they would in the world; nevertheless, if they will follow 
my advice, they will at least consider what concerns their honour. 
Let them be prepared to allow them to marry far beneath 
their stations rather than put them into convents of this kind, 
unless they are very devoutly inclined and God grant that 
their inclinations may lead them into what is good! Otherwise 
they will do better to keep them at home; for there, if they want 
to be wicked, they cannot long hide their wickedness, whereas 
in convents it can be hidden for a. very long time indeed, until, 
in the end, it is revealed by the Lord. They do harm not only 
to themselves but to everybody else; and at times the poor 
creatures are really not to blame, for they only do what they 
find others doing. Many of them are to be pitied: they wish 
to escape from the world, and, thinking that they are going to 
serve the Lord and flee from the world and its perils, they find 
themselves in ten worlds at once, and have no idea where to 
turn or how to get out of their difficulties. Youth, sensuality 
and the devil invite and incline them to do things which are 
completely worldly; and they see that these things' are considered, 
as one might say, "all right". To me, in some ways, they resemble 
those unhappy heretics, who wilfully blind themselves and 
proclaim that what they do is good ; and believe it to be so, yet 
without real confidence, for there is something within them 
which tells them they are doing wrong. 

Oh, what terrible harm, what terrible harm is wrought in 
religious (I am referring now as much to men as to women) 
when the religious life is not properly observed; when of the two 
paths that can be followed in a religious house one leading 
to virtue and the observance of the Rule and the other leading 
away from the Rule both are frequented almost equally! No, 
I am wrong : they are not frequented equally, for our sins cause 


the more imperfect road to be the more commonly taken; 
being the broader, it is the more generally favoured. The way 
of true religion is frequented so little that, if the friar and the 
nun are to begin to follow their vocation truly, they need to be 
more afraid of the religious in their own house than of all the 
devils. They must observe greater caution and dissimulation 
when speaking of the friendship which they would have with 
God than in speaking of other friendships and affections promoted 
in religious houses by the devil. I cannot think why we should 
be astonished at all the evils which exist in the Church, when 
those who ought to be models on which all may pattern their 
virtues are annulling the work wrought in the religious Orders 
by the spirit of the saints of old. May His Divine Majesty be 
pleased to find a reme'dy for this, as He sees needful. Amen. 

Now when I began to indulge in these conversations, I did not 
think, seeing them to be so usual, that they would cause the 
harm and distraction to my soul which I found would be the 
case later. For I thought that, as in many convents it is such a 
common practice to receive visitors, I should take no more harm 
from it than would others whom I knew to be good. I did not 
realize that they were far better 1 than I and that what was 
dangerous for me would not be so dangerous for others. Yet I 
have no doubt that the practice is never quite free from danger, 
' if only because it is a waste of time. I was once in the company 
of a certain person, right at the beginning of my acquaintance 
with her, when the Lord was pleased to make me realize that 
these friendships were not good for me, and to warn me and 
enlighten my great blindness. Christ revealed Himself to me, 
in an attitude of great sternness, and showed me what there was 
in this that displeased Him. 1 I saw Him with the eyes of the 
soul more clearly than I could ever have seen Him with those 
of the body; and it made such an impression upon me that, 
although it is now more than twenty-six years ago, I seem to 
have Him present with me still. I was greatly astonished and 
upset about it and I never wanted to see that person again. 

It did me great harm not to know that it was possible to 
see anything otherwise than with the eyes of the body. It was 
the devil who encouraged me in this ignorance and made me 
think that anything else was impossible. He led me to believe 
that I had imagined it all, and that it might have been the work 
of the devil, and other things of that kind. I always had an idea 
that it was not due to my fancy but came from God. However, 
just because the vision did not please me, I forced myself to give 

1 [The Saint wrote, no doubt madvertendy, "that did not displease Him".] P. 
Banez corrected this to: "that He did not like" 


the lie to my own instinct; and, as I dared not discuss it with 
anyone, and after a time great importunity was brought to bear 
on me, I entered into relations with that person once again. I 
was assured that there was no harm in my seeing such a person, 
and that by doing so I should not injure my good name 1 but 
rather enhance it. On subsequent occasions I got to know 
other people in the same way; and I spent many years in this 
pestilential pastime, which, whenever I was engaged in it, never 
seemed to me as bad as it really was, though sometimes I saw 
clearly that it was not good. But no one caused me as much 
distraction as did the person of whom I am speaking, for I was 
very fond of her. 

On another occasion, when I was with that same person, we 
saw coming towards us and others who were there saw this 
too something like a great toad, but crawling much more 
quickly than toads are wont to do. I cannot imagine how such 
a reptile could have come from the place in question in broad 
daylight; it had never happened before, and the incident 
made such an impression on me that I think it must have had 
a hidden meaning, and I have never forgotten this either. 
O greatness of God! With what care and compassion didst 
Thou warn me in every way and how little did I profit by Thy 
warnings ! 

There was a nun in that convent, who was a relative of mine; 
she had been there a long time and was a great servant of God 
and devoted to the Rule of her Order. She, too, occasionally 
warned me ; and not only did I disbelieve her but I was displeased 
with her, for I thought she was shocked without cause. I have 
mentioned this in order to make clear my wickedness and the 
great goodness of God and to show how by this great ingratitude 
of mine I had merited hell. I also mention it in order that, if 
it is the Lord's will and pleasure that it shall be read at any 
time by a nun, she may be warned by me. I beg all nuns, for 
the love of Our Lord, to flee from such pastimes as these. May 
His Majesty grant that some of those whom I have led astray 
may be set in the right path by me; I used to tell them that there 
was nothing wrong in this practice, and, blind that I was, reassure 
them about what was in reality a great danger. I would never 
have deliberately deceived them; but, through the bad example 
that I set them, as I have said, I was the cause of a great deal 
of wrong-doing without ever thinking I could be. 

In those early days, during my illness, and. before I knew 
how to take care of myself, I used to have the greatest desire to 
be of use to others. This is a very common temptation in begin- 

1 [Honra.] 


ners; in my case, however, its effects were good. I was so fond 
of my father that I longed for him to experience the benefit 
which I seemed to be deriving from the practice of prayer myself, 
for I thought that in this life there could be nothing greater. 
So by indirect methods, and to the best of my ability, I began to 
try to get him to practise it. To this end I gave him books to 
read. Being very virtuous, as I have said he was, he took so well 
to this exercise that in five or six years (I think it must have been 1 ) 
he had made such progress that I praised the Lord greatly and 
was wonderfully encouraged. He had to bear the severest 
trials of many different kinds and he bore them with the greatest 
resignation. He often came to see me, for he derived great com- 
fort from speaking of the things of God. 

But now that I had fallen away so far, and no longer practised 
prayer, I could not bear him to think, as I saw he did, that I 
was still just as I used to be; so I had to undeceive him. For I 
had been a year or more without praying, thinking that to 
refrain from prayer was a sign of greater humility. This, as I 
shall afterwards explain, was the greatest temptation I had: 
it nearly brought about my ruin. For during the time I practised 
prayer, if I had offended God one day, I would recollect myself 
on the following days and withdraw farther from occasions of 
sin. When that dear good man came to visit me, it was very 
hard for me to see him under the false impression that I was still 
communing with God as I had been doing before. So I told him 
that I was no longer praying, without telling him the reason. 
I made my illnesses an excuse; for, though I had recovered from 
that very serious illness, I have suffered ever since from indis- 
positions, and sometimes from grave ones, even to this day. 
For some time my complaints have been less troublesome, 
but they have by no means left me. In particular, for twenty 
years I suffered from morning sickness, so that I was not able 
to break my fast until after midday sometimes not until much 
later. Now that I go oftener to Communion, I have to bring 
on the sickness at night, with feathers or in some other way, 
before I go to bed, which is much more distressing; but if I let 
it take its course I feel much worse. I think I can hardly ever be 
free from aches and pains, and sometimes very serious ones, 
especially in the heart, although the trouble which I once had 
continually now occurs only rarely, and I have been free for 
quite eight years from the paralysis and the feverish complaints 

1 [Hardly quite so long, as] it seems certain that Don Alonso died on December 24, 
1543. His will is dated December 3, 1543, an< l ^ son an( i executor Lorenzo opened 
it on December 26 [P. Silverio reproduces documents which disprove MIT'S date of 
1545 for Don Alonso's death.] 


from which I used often to suffer. Of these troubles I now make 
such little account that I often rejoice in them, thinking that 
to some extent they are pleasing to the Lord. 

My father believed me when I told him that it was because of 
my health that I had ceased to pray, since he never told a 
lie himself, and, in view of the relations between us, there 
was no reason why I should have done so either. I told him, 
in order to make my story the more credible (for I well knew that 
I had no such excuse really), that it was as much as I could do to 
attend the choir offices. Not that this would be any sufficient 
reason for giving up something which needs no bodily strength, 
but only love and the formation of a habit; and the Lord always 
gives us an opportunity if we want one. I say always; for, though 
there may be times when we are prevented by various hind- 
rances, and even by illness, from spending much time alone, 
there are plenty of others when we are in sufficiently good health 
to do so. And even despite illness, or other hindrances, we can 
still engage in true prayer, when there is love in the soul, by 
offering up that very impediment, remembering Him for Whom 
we suffer it and being resigned to it and to a thousand other 
things which may happen to us. It is here that love comes in; 
for we are not necessarily praying when we are alone, nor need 
we refrain from praying when we are not. 

With a little care, great blessings can be acquired at times 
when the Lord deprives us of our hours of prayer by sending us 
trials; and this I had myself found to be the case when my 
conscience had been good. But my father, holding the opinion 
of me that he did and loving me as he did, believed everything 
I told him and in fact was sorry for me. As he had now reached 
such a high state of prayer he used not to stay with me for so 
long, but after he had seen me would go away, saying that he 
was wasting his time. As I was wasting mine on other vanities, 
this remark made little impression upon me. There were other 
persons, as well as my father, whom I tried to lead into the 
practice of prayer. Indulging in vanities myself though I was, 
when I saw people who were fond of saying their prayers, I 
would show them how to make a meditation and help them and 

r've them books; for ever since I began to pray, as I have said, 
had this desire that others should serve God. And now that I 
was no longer serving the Lord according to my ability, I thought 
that the knowledge which His Majesty had given me ought not 
to be lost and wanted others to learn to serve Him through me. 
I say this in order to show how great was my blindness, which 
allowed me to do such harm to myself and yet to try to be" of 
profit to others. 


It was at this time that my father was stricken by the illness 
of which he died. It lasted for some days. I went to look after 
him, more afflicted in soul than he in body, on account of my 
vanities, though, as far as I was aware, I was never in mortal 
sin during the whole of this wasted time of which I am speaking: 
if I had known myself to be so I would on no account have 
continued in it. I was greatly distressed by his illness and I believe 
I was able to return him some part of all he had done for me 
when I was ill myself. Distressed as I was, I forced myself into 
activity; and though in losing him I lost my greatest blessing and 
comfort, for he was always that to me, I was so determined not to 
let him see my grief for as long as he lived that I behaved as if 
I felt no grief at all. Yet so dearly did I love him that, when I 
saw his life was ending, I felt as if my very soul were being torn 
from me. 

The Lord must be praised for the death which he died, for 
his desire to die, for the advice which he gave us after receiving 
Extreme Unction, and for the way he charged 'us to commend 
him to God, to pray for mercy upon him and to serve God always, 
remembering how all things come to an end. He told us with 
tears how deeply grieved he was that he had not served God 
better: he would have liked to be a friar and by that I mean 
to have joined one of the strictest Orders in existence. I am 
quite sure that a fortnight before his death the Lord had made 
him realize that he would not live much longer; for down to 
that time, ill though he was, he had not believed he would die. 
But during that last fortnight, though he got much better and 
the doctors told him so, he took no notice of them but occupied 
himself in putting his soul right with God. 

His chief ailment was a most acute pain in the back, which 
never left him: at times it was so severe that it caused him 
great anguish. I said to him that, as he used to think so devoutly 
of the Lord carrying the Cross on His back, he must suppose 
His Majesty wished him to feel something of what He Himself 
had suffered under that trial. This comforted him so much 
that I do not think I ever heard him complain again. For three 
days he was practically unconscious ; biit, on the day of his death, 
the Lord restored his consciousness so completely that we were 
astonished, and he remained conscious until, half-way through 
the Greed, which he was repeating to himself, he died. He looked 
like an angel; and so he seemed to me, as one might say, both 
in his soul and in his disposition, for he was very good. I do not 
know why I have said this, unless it be to blame myself the more 
fof my wicked life; for, after witnessing such a death and realizing 
what his life had been, I ought to have tried to do something 


to resemble such a father by growing better. His confessor, who 
was a Dominican 1 and a very learned man, used to say that he 
had not the least doubt he had gone straight to Heaven; he 
had been his confessor for some years and spoke highly of his 
purity of conscience. 

This Dominican father, who was a very good man and had a 

great fear of God, was of the very greatest help to me. I made 

my confessions to him and he took great pains to lead my soul 

aright and make me realize how near I was to perdition. He made 

me communicate once a fortnight; and gradually, as I got to 

know him, I began to tell him about my prayers. He told me 

never to leave these ofT, for they could not possibly do me anything 

but good. So I began to take them up once more (though I 

did not flee from occasions of sin) and I never again abandoned 

them. My life became full of trials, because by means of prayer 

I learned more and more about my faults. On the one hand, 

God was calling me. On the other, I was following the world. 

All the things of God gave me great pleasure, yet I was tied and 

bound to those of the world. It seemed as if I wanted to reconcile 

these two contradictory things, so completely opposed to one 

another the life of the spirit and the pleasures and joys and 

pastimes of the senses. I suffered great trials in prayer, for the 

spirit was not master in me, but slave. I could not, therefore, 

shut myself up within myself (the procedure in which consisted 

my whole method of prayer) without at the same time shutting 

in a thousand vanities. I spent many years in this way, and now 

I am amazed that a person could have gone on for so long 

without giving up either the one or the other. I know quite well 

that by that time it was,no longer in my power to give up prayer, 

because He who desired me for His own in order to show me 

greater favours held me Himself in His hand. 

Oh, God help me! If only I could describe the occasions of 
sin during these years from which God delivered me, and tell 
how I plunged into them again and how He continually saved 
me from the danger of losing my entire reputation ! I would show 
by my actions the kind of person I was; yet the Lord would hide 
the wrongs I did and reveal some small virtue, if I had any, 
and magnify it in the eyes of all, so that people invariably had 
i high opinion of me. For, although my vanities were some- 
imes crystal-clear, they would not believe them to be such when 
iiey observed other things in me which they considered good. 
This happened because He Who knows all things saw it to be 
accessary, in order that hereafter I might be given some credence 
when speaking of things that concern His service. His sovereign 

1 P. Vicente Barr6n [Of. p. 27, n. 2 V above.] 


bounty regarded not my great sins but the desires which I so 
often had to serve Him. and my grief at not having in myself 
the strength to turn the desires into actions. 

O Lord of my soul ! How can I magnify the favours which 
Thou didst bestow upon me during these years? And how, at 
the very time when I was offending Thee most sorely, didst 
Thou suddenly prepare me, by the deepest repentance, to taste 
Thy favours and graces ! In truth, my King, Thou didst choose 
the most delicate and grievous chastisement that I could possibly 
have to bear, for well didst Thou know what would cause me 
the greatest pain. Thou didst chastise my faults with great 
favours. And I do not believe I am speaking foolishly, though 
well might I become distraught when I recall to mind my 
ingratitude and wickedness. In the condition I was in at that 
time, it was much more painful for me, when I had fallen into 
grievous faults, to be given favours, than to be given punish- 
ments. A single one of these faults, I feel sure, troubled and 
confounded and distressed me more than many sicknesses and 
many other grievous trials all put together. For these last I 
knew that I deserved and thought that by them I was making 
some amends for my sins, although my sins were so numerous 
that everything I could do was very little. But when I find 
myself receiving new favours, after making so poor a return 
for those I have received already, I experience a kind of torture 
which is terrible to me, as I thank it must be to all who have 
any knowledge or love of God. We can deduce our own un- 
worthiness by imagining a state of real virtue. This accounts 
for my tears and vexation when I took stock of my own feelings, 
and realized that I was in such a state as to be on the point 
of falling again and again, though my resolutions and desires 
at that time, I mean were quite steadfast. 

It is a great evil for a soul beset by so many dangers to be 
alone. I believe, if I had had anyone with whom to discuss, 
all this, it would have helped me not to fall again, if only because 
I should have been ashamed in his sight, which I was not 
in the sight of God. For this reason I would advise those "who 
practise prayer, especially at first, to cultivate friendship and 
intercourse with others of similar interests. This is a most im- 
portant thing, if only because we can help each other by 
our prayers, and it is all the more so because it may bring 
us many other benefits. Since people can find comfort in the 
conversation and human sympathy of ordinary friendships, even 
when these are not altogether good, I do not know why anyone 
who is beginning to love and serve God in earnest should not , 
be allowed to discuss his joys and trials with others and people 


who practise prayer have plenty of both. For, if the friendship 
which such a person desires to have with His Majesty is true 
friendship, he need not be afraid of becoming vainglorious : as 
soon as the first motion of vainglory attacks him, he will repel 
it, and, in doing so, gain merit* I believe that anyone who 
discusses the subject with this in mind will profit both himself 
and his hearers, and will be all the wiser for it; and, without 
realizing he is doing so, will edify his friends. 

Anyone who could become vainglorious through discussing 
these matters would become equally so by hearing Mass with 
devotion in a place where people can see him, and by doing 
other things which he is obliged to do under pain of being 
no Christian at all : he cannot possibly refrain from doing these 
through fear of vainglory. This is also most important for souls 
which are not strengthened in virtue; they have so many enemies 
and friends to incite them to do what is wrong that I cannot 
insist upon it sufficiently. It seems to me that this scruple is an 
invention of the devil, who finds it extremely valuable. He 
uses it to persuade those who are anxious to try to love and 
please God to hide their good desires, while inciting others, 
whose wills are evilly inclined, to reveal their wrong intentions. 
This happens so frequently that people now seem to glory in 
it and the offences committed in this way against God are 
published openly. 

I do not know if the things I am saying are nonsense : if so, 
Your Reverence must erase them; if not, I beg you to help 
my simplicity by adding to them freely. For people trouble so 
little about things pertaining to the service of God that we 
must all back each other up 1 if those of us who serve Him are 
to make progress. People think, it a good thing to follow the 
pleasures and vanities of the world and there are few who look 
askance at these; but if a single person begins to devote himself 
to God, there are so many to speak ill of him that self-defence 
compels him to seek the companionship of others until he is 
strong enough not to be depressed by suffering. Unless he does 
this he will find himself in continual difficulties. It must have 
been for this reason, I think, that some of the saints were in the 
habit of going into the desert. It is a kind of humility for a 
man not to trust himself but to believe that God will help him 
in dealing with those with whom he has intercourse. Charity 
grows when it is communicated to others and from this there 
result a thousand blessings. I should not dare to say this if I 
had not had a great deal of experience of its importance. It 
is true that of all who are born I am the weakest and wickedest; 

1 [The metaphor, hacerse espaldas, is St. Teresa's.] 


but I believe that anyone, however strong, who humbles himself 
and trusts not in himself but in someone who has experience, 
will lose nothing. As regards myself, I can say that, if the Lord 
had not revealed this truth to me and given me the means of 
speaking very frequently with people who practise prayer, I 
should have gone on rising and falling again until I fell right 
into hell. For I had many friends who helped me to fall; but, 
when it came to rising again, I found myself so completely alone 
that I marvel now that I did not remain where I was, and I 
praise the mercy of God, Who alone gave me His hand. May 
He be blessed for ever. Amen. 


Treats of the great benefit which she derived from not entirely giving up 
prayer lest she should ruin her soul. Describes the excellence of 
prayer as a help towards regaining what one has lost. Urges all 
to practise it. Says what great gain it brings and how great a 
benefit it is, even for those who may later give it up, to spend some 
time on a thing which is so good. 

It is not without reason that I have dwelt upon this period 
of my life at such length. I know well that nobody will derive 
any pleasure from reading about anyone so wicked, and I sin- 
cerely hope that those who read this will hold me in abhorrence, 
when they see that a soul which had received such great favours 
could be so obstinate and ungrateful. I wish I could be allowed 
to describe the many occasions on which I failed God during 
this period through not having leaned upon this strong pillar 
of prayer. 

I spent nearly twenty years on that stormy sea, often falling 
in this way and each time rising again, but to little purpose, 
as I would only fall once more. My life was so far from perfection 
that I took hardly any notice of venial sins; as to mortal sins, 
although afraid of them, I was not so much so as I ought to 
have been; for I did not keep free from the danger of falling 
into them. I can testify that this is one of the most grievous 
kinds of life which I think can be imagined, for I had neither 
any joy in God nor any pleasure in the world. When I was 
in the midst of worldly pleasures, I was distressed by the remem- 
brance of what I owed to God; when I was with God, I grew 
restless because of worldly affections. This is so grievous a con- 
flict that I do not know how I managed to endure it for a month, 


much less for so many years. Nevertheless, I can see how great 
was the Lord's mercy to me, since, while I was still having 
intercourse with the world. He gave me courage to practise 
prayer. I say courage, because I know nothing in the world 
that needs more of this than to be dealing treacherously with 
the King and to know that He is aware of it and yet never to 
leave His presence. For, although we are always in the presence 
of God, it seems to me that those who practise prayer are specially 
so, because they can see all the time that He is looking at them; 
whereas others may be in God's presence for several days with- 
out ever remembering that He can see them. 

It is true that, during these years, there were many months 
once, I believe, there was as much as a whole year in which 
I kept myself from offending the Lord, devoted myself earnestly 
to prayer and took various and very careful precautions not to 
offend Him. As all that I have written is set down in the strictest 
truth, I am saying this now. But I remember little about these 
good days, so there can have been few of them, whereas the 
bad ones must have been numerous. Yet not many days would 
pass without my spending long periods in prayer, unless I was 
very ill or very busy. When I was ill, I was nearer to God; 
and I contrived that the persons who were around me should 
be near Him too and I begged the Lord that this might be so 
and often spoke of Him. So, not counting the year I have referred 
to, more than eighteen of the twenty-eight years which have 
gone by since I began prayer have been spent in this battle and 
conflict which arose from my having relations both with God 
and with the world. During the remaining years, of which I 
have still to speak, the conflict has not been light, but its causes 
have changed; as I believe I have been serving God and have 
come to know the vanity inherent in the world, everything has 
gone smoothly, as I shall say later. 

Now the reason why I have related all this is, as I have already 
said, to make evident God's mercy and my own ingratitude. 
Another reason is to show what great blessings God grants to 
a soul when He prepares it to love the practice of prayer, though 
it may not be as well prepared already as it should be; and how, 
if that soul perseveres, notwithstanding the sins, temptations and 
falls of a thousand kinds into which the devil leads it, the Lord, 
I am certain, will bring it to -the harbour of salvation, just as, 
so far as can at present be told, He has brought me. May His 
Majesty grant that I may never again be lost. 

The blessings possessed by one who practises prayer I mean 
mental prayer have been Written of by many saints and good 
men. Glory be to God for this ! If it were not so, I should not 


have assurance enough (though I am not very humble) to dare 
to speak of it. I can say what I know by experience namely, 
that no one who has begun this practice, however many sins 
he may commit, should ever forsake it. For it is the means by 
which we may amend our lives again, and without it amend- 
ment will be very much harder. So let him not be tempted by 
the devil, as I was, to give it up for reasons of humility, but let 
him believe that the words cannot fail of Him Who says that, 
if we truly repent and determine not to offend Him, He will 
resume His former friendship with us and grant us the favours 
which He granted aforetime, and sometimes many more, if our 
repentance merits it. 1 And anyone who has not begun to pray, 
I beg, for love of the Lord, not to miss so great a blessing. There 
is no place here for fear, but only for desire. For, even if a 
person fails to make progress, or to strive after perfection, so 
that he may merit the consolations and favours given to the 
perfect by God, yet he will gradually gain a knowledge of the 
road to Heaven. And if he perseveres, I hope in the mercy of 
God, Whom no one has ever taken for a Friend without being 
rewarded; and mental prayer, in my view, is nothing but friendly 
intercourse, and frequent solitary converse, with Him Who we 
know loves us. If love is to be true and friendship lasting, cer- 
tain conditions are necessary: on the Lord's side we know these 
cannot fail, but our nature is vicious, sensual and ungrateful. 
You cannot therefore succeed in loving Him as much as He 
loves you, because it is not in your nature to do so. If, then, 
you do not yet love Him, you will realize how much it means 
to you to have His friendship and how much He loves you, 
and you will gladly endure' the troubles which arise from being 2 
so much with One Who is so different from you. 

O infinite goodness of my God! It is thus that I seem to see 
both myself and Thee. O Joy of the angels, how I long, when 
I think of this, to be wholly consumed in love for Thee ! How 
true it is that Thou dost bear with those who cannot bear Thee 
to be with them ! Oh, how good a Friend art Thou, my Lord ! 
How Thou dost comfort us and suffer us and wait until our 
nature becomes more like Thine and meanwhile dost bear with 
it as it is! Thou dost remember the times when we Itfve Thee, 
my Lord, and, when for a moment we repent, Thou dost forget 
how we have offended Thee. I have seen this clearly in my 
own life, and I cannot conceive, my Creator, why the whole 

1 [An apparent reference to Ezechiel xviii, 21.] 

8 [Lit: "the grief (pena) of being. . . ." "Discomfort," "embarrassment," "de- 
pression" would be modern equivalents of the substantive, but none of these is suffi-* 
cxently comprehensive. St. Teresa is referring to all the varied reactions produced 
in man by lie contact between his littleness and the greatness of God .] 


world does not strive to draw near to Thee in this intimate 
friendship. Those of us who are wicked, and whose nature is 
not like Thine, ought to draw near to Thee so that Thou rnayest 
make them good. They should allow Thee to be with them 
for at least two hours each day, even though they may not be 
with Thee, but are perplexed, as I was, with a thousand worldly 
cares and thoughts. In exchange for the effort which it costs 
them to desire to be in such good company (for Thou knowest. 
Lord, that at first this is as much as they can do and sometimes 
they can do no more at all) Thou dost prevent the devils from 
assaulting them so that each day they are able to do them less 
harm, and Thou givest them strength to conquer. Yea, Life of 
all lives, Thou slayest none of those that put their trust in 
Thee and desire Thee for their Friend; rather dost Thou sustain 
their bodily life with greater health and give life to their 

I do not understand the fears of those who are afraid to begin 
mental prayer: I do not know what they are afraid o The 
devil does well to instil fear into us so that he may do us real 
harm. By making me afraid he stops me from thinking of the 
ways in which I have offended God and of all I owe Him and 
of the reality of hell and of glory and of the great trials and 
griefs which He suffered for me. That was the whole extent 
of my prayer, and remained so for as long as I was subject to 
these perils, and it was about these things that I used to think 
whenever I could; and very often, over a period of several years, 
I was more occupied in wishing my hour of prayer were over, 
and in listening whenever the clock struck, than in thinking 
of things that were good. Again and again, I would rather 
have done any severe penance that might have been given me 
than practise recollection as a preliminary to prayer. It is a 
fact that, either through the intolerable power of the devil's 
assaults or because of my own bad habits, I did not at once 
betake myself to prayer; and whenever I entered the oratory 
I used to feel so depressed that I had to summon up all my 
courage to make myself pray at all. (People say that I have 
little courage, and it is dear that God has given me much more 
than to most women, only I have made bad use of it.) In the 
end, the Lord would come to my help. Afterwards, when I had 
forced myself to pray, I would find that I had more tranquillity 
and happiness than at certain other times when I had prayed 
because I had wanted to. 

Now if the Lord bore for so long with such a wicked creature 
as I and it is quite clear that it was in this way that all my 
wrong was put right what other person, however wicked he 


may be, can have any reason for fear? For, bad though he be, 
he will not remain so for all the years I did after having received 
so many favours from the Lord. Who can possibly despair, when 
He bore so long with me, merely because I desired and sought 
out some place and time for Him to be with me and that often 
happened without my willing it because I forced myself to seek 
it, or rather the Lord Himself forced me? If, then, prayer is so 
good, and so necessary, for those who do not serve God, but 
offend Him, and if no one can possibly discover any harm that 
prayer can do him which would not be much greater if he did 
not practise it, why should those who serve and desire to serve 
God give it up? Really I cannot see any reason, unless it is that 
they want to endure the trials of life by adding more trials to 
them and to shut the door upon God so that Fie shall not 
give them the joy of prayer. I am indeed sorry for such people, 
for they are serving God at great cost to themselves. But when 
people practise prayer the Lord Himself bears the cost: in 
exchange for a little labour on their part, He gives them such 
consolation as will enable them to bear their trials. 

As I shall have a great deal to say about these consolations 
which the Lord gives to those who persevere in prayer, I am saying 
nothing here : I will only observe that prayer is the door to those 
great favours which He has bestowed upon me. Once the door 
is closed, I do not see how He will bestow them; for, though 
He may wish to take His delight in a soul and to give the soul 
delight, there is no way for Him to do so, since He must have it 
alone and pure, -and desirous of receiving His favours. If we 
place numerous hindrances in His path, and do nothing to remove 
them, how can He come to us? And yet we wish God to grant 
us great favours! 

In order that it may be seen what mercy He showed me and 
what a great blessing it was for me that I did not give up prayer 
and reading, I will now describe something which it is very im- 
portant should be understood the assaults which the devil makes 
upon a soul in order to conquer it for his own, and the art and the 
loving-kindness with which the Lord endeavours to bring it back 
to Himself. My readers will then be on the watch for the perils for 
which I was not watchful myself. And, above all, I beg them, for 
the love of Our Lord, and for the great love -wherewith He is 
continually seeking to bring us back to Himself, to be on the watch 
for occasions of sin; for, once we are in the midst of these, we have 
no cause for confidence, being attacked, as we are, by so many 
enemies and being so weak when it comes to defending ourselves. 

I wish I knew how to describe the captivity of my soul at that 
time. I fully realized that I was a prisoner, and yet I could not see 


how, nor could I really believe that things which my confessors 
did not represent as being very serious were as wrong as in my 
soul I felt them^ to be. One of these confessors, when I went to 
him with a scruple, told me that, even if I were experiencing high 
contemplation, such intercourse and such occasions of sin were 
not doing me any harm. This was at the end of that period, when, 
by the grace of God, I was withdrawing farther and farther from 
grave perils, though I did not altogether flee from the occasions 
of them. When my confessors saw that I had good desires and was 
spending my time in prayer, they thought I was doing a great deal. 
But in my heart of hearts I knew that I was not doing what I was 
bound to do for Him to Whom I owed so much. I regret now all 
that my soul suffered and the scant help it had from anyone save 
God, and the numerous opportunities that were given it to in- 
dulge its pastimes and pleasures by those who said that these were 

Sermons, again, caused me no small torture, for I was extremely 
fond of them, so that if I heard anyone preach a good, earnest 
sermon, I would conceive a special affection for him, without in 
any way trying to do so: I do not know to what this was due. 
A sermon rarely seemed to me so bad that I failed to listen to it 
with pleasure, even when others who heard it considered that the 
preaching was not good. If it were good, it- was a very special 
refreshment to me. To speak of God, or to listen to others speaking 
of Him, hardly ever wearied me this, of course, after I began to 
practise prayer. In one way I used to find great comfort in sermons ; 
in another, they would torture me, because they would make me 
realize that I was not what I ought to be, or anything approaching 
it. I used to beseech the Lord to help me; but I now believe I 
must have failed to put my whole confidence in His Majesty and 
to have a complete distrust in myself. I sought for a remedy, 
and took great trouble to find one, but I could not have realized 
that all our efforts are unavailing unless we completely give up 
having confidence in ourselves and fix it all upon God. I wanted 
to live, for I knew quite well that I was not living at all 
but battling with a shadow of death; but there was no one to 
give me life and I was unable to take it for myself. He Who could 
have given it me was right not to help me, since He had so often 
brought me back to Himself and I had as often left Him. 



Describes the means by which the Lord began to awaken her soul and to 
give her light amid such great darkness, and to strengthen the virtues 
in her so that she should not of end Him. 

By this time my soul was growing weary, and, though it desired 
to rest, the miserable habits which now enslaved it would not 
allow it to do so. It happened that, entering the oratory one day, 
I saw an image which had been procured for a certain festival 
that was observed in the house and had been taken there to be 
kept for that purpose. It represented Christ sorely wounded; 1 
and so conducive was it to devotion that when I looked at it I 
was deeply moved to see Him thus, so well did it picture what He 
suffered for us. So great was my distress when I thought how ill 
I had repaid Him for those wounds that I felt as if my heart were 
breaking, and I threw myself down beside Him, shedding floods 
of tears and begging Him to give me strength once for all so that 
I might not offend Him. 

I had a great devotion to the glorious Magdalen and often 
thought t)f her conversion, especially when I communicated, for, 
knowing that the Lord was certainly within me then, I would place 
myself at His feet, thinking that my tears would not be rejected. 
I did not know what I was saying; but in allowing me to shed 
those tears He was very gracious to me, since I so soon forgot my 
grief; and I used to commend myself to that glorious Saint so 
that she might obtain pardon for me. 

But on this last occasion when I saw that image of which I am 
speaking, I think I must have made greater progress, because I 
had quite lost trust in myself and was placing all my confidence 
in God. I believe I told Him then that I would not rise from that 
spot until He had granted me what I was beseeching of Him. 
And I feel sure that this did me good, for from that time onward 
I began to improve. My method of prayer was this. As I could 
not reason with my mind, I would try to make pictures of Christ 
inwardly; and I used to think 'I felt better when I dwelt on those 
parts of His life when He was most often alone. It seemed to 
me that His being alone and afflicted, like a person in need, 
made it possible for me to approach Him. I had many simple 
thoughts of this kind. I was particularly attached to the prayer 

1 Tradition has it that this was an Ecce Homo, which is still venerated in the Convent 
of the Incarnation, though some writers have described it as a representation of Christ 
bound to the Column. 

IX] LIFE 55 

in the Garden, where I would go to keep Him company. I would 
think of the sweat and of the affliction He endured there. I wished 
I could have wiped that grievous sweat from His face, but I 
remember that I never dared to resolve to do so, for the gravity 
of my sins stood in the way. I used to remain with Him there for 
as long as my thoughts permitted it: I had many thoughts which 
tormented me. 

For many years, on most nights before I fell asleep, when I 
would commend myself to God so as to sleep well, I used to think, 
for a little of that scene the prayer in the Garden and this 
even before I was a nun, for I was told that many indulgences 
could be gained by so doing; and I feel sure that my soul gained 
a great deal in this way, because I began to practise prayer 
without knowing what it was, and the very habitualness of the 
custom prevented me from abandoning it, just as I never omitted 
making the sign of the Cross before going to sleep. 

To return now to what I was saying about the torture caused 
me by my thoughts : this method of praying in which the mind 
makes no reflections means that the soul must either gain a great 
deal or lose itself I mean by its attention going astray. 1 If 
it advances, it goes a long way, because it is moved by love. 
But those who arrive thus far will do so only at great cost to them- 
selves, save when the Lord is pleased to call them very speedily 
to the Prayer of Quiet, as He has called a few people whom I 
know. It is a good thing for those who follow this method to 
have a book at hand, so that they may quickly recollect themselves. 
It used also to help me to look at a field, or water, or flowers. 
These reminded me of the Creator I mean, they awakened me, 
helped me to recollect myself and thus served me as a book; 
they reminded me, too, of my ingratitude and sins. But when it 
came to heavenly things, or to any sublime subject, my mind 
was so stupid that I could never imagine them at all, until the 
Lord showed them to me in another way. 

I had so little ability for picturing things in my mind that if I 
did not actually see a thing I could not use my imagination, as 
other people do, who can make pictures to themselves and so 
become recollected. Of Christ as Man I could only think: however 
much I read about His beauty and however often I looked at 
pictures of Him, I could never form any picture of Him myself. 
I was like a person who is blind, or in the dark: he may be talking 
to someone; and kn'ow that he is with him, because he is quite sure 
he is there I mean, he understands and believes he is there 
but he cannot see him. Thus it was with me when I thought 

1 [The original has an untranslatable play upon words: /#., "must be (stc) gained 
or lost a great deal I mean (its) meditation (will be) lost."] 


of Our Lord. It was for this reason that I was so fond of pictures. 
Unhappy are those who through their own fault lose this blessing ! 
It really looks as if they do not love the Lord, for if they loved 
Him they would delight in looking at pictures of Him, just as they 
take pleasure in seeing pictures of anyone else whom they love. 

It was at this time that I was given the Confessions of Saint 
Augustine^ and I think the Lord must have ordained this, for I 
did not ask for the book nor had I ever seen it. I have a great 
affection for Saint Augustine, because the convent in which I had 
lived before becoming a nun belonged to his Order, and also 
because he had been a sinner. I used to find a great deal of com- 
fort in reading about the lives of saints who had been sinners before 
the Lord brought them back to Himself. As He had forgiven them 
I thought that He might do the same for me. There was only one 
thing that troubled me, and this I have already mentioned: 
namely that, after the Lord had once called them, they did not fall 
again, whereas I had fallen so often that I was distressed by it. But 
when I thought of His love for me, I would take heart once more, 
for I never doubted His mercy, though I often doubted myself. 

Oh, God help me! How amazed I am when I think how hard 
my heart was despite all the help I had received from Him! 
It really frightens me to remember how little I could do by myself 
and how I was so tied and bound that I could not resolve to give 
myself wholly to God. When I started to read the * Confessions, 
I seemed to see myself in them and I began to commend myselif 
often to that glorious Saint. When I got as far as his conversion 
and read how he heard that voice in the garden, 2 it seemed 
exactly as if the Lord were speaking in that way to me, or so my 
heart felt. I remained for a long time dissolved in tears, in great 
distress and affliction. Dear God, what a soul suffers and what tor- 
ments it endures when it loses its freedom to be its own master ! I am 
astonished now that I was able to live in such a state of torment. 
God be praised, Who gave me life to forsake such utter death ! 

I believe my soul gained great strength from the Divine Majesty: 
He must have heard my cries and had compassion on all my tears. 
I began to long to spend more time with Him, and to drive away 
occasions of sin, for, once they had gone, I would feel a new love 
for His Majesty. I knew that, so far as I could tell, I loved Him, 
but I did not know, as I should have done, what true love of God 

1 A Spanish translation of the Confessions was made by a Portuguese, P. Sebastian 
Toscano, and dedicated by him to Dona Leonor de Mascarenas, a great friend of St. 
Teresa (Cf. Foundations, Chap. XVII: Vol. Ill, p. 81, below) : the dedication is dated 
January 15, 1554. [If, as is likely, this was the edition given to the Saint, the incident 
supports a later date than 1554-5, which is the date commonly given, for her "second 
conversion ".] 

* [Confessions, Bk. VIII, Chap. XII.] 

IX] LIFE 57 

really means. I think I had not yet quite prepared myself to want 
to serve Him when His Majesty began to grant me favours again. 
It really seems that the Lord found a way to make me desire to 
receive what others strive to acquire with great labour that is to 
say, during these latter years, He gave me consolations and favours. 
I never presumed to beg Him to give me either these things or 
tenderness in devotion : I only asked for grace not to offend Him 
and for the pardon of my grievous sins. Knowing how grievous they 
were, I never dared consciously to desire favours or consolations. 
His compassion, I think, worked in me abundantly, and in truth 
He showed me great mercy in allowing me to be with Him and 
bringing me into His presence, which I knew I should not have 
entered had He not so disposed it. Only once in my life at a 
time when I was suffering from great aridity do I remember 
having asked Him for consolations, and when I realized what 
I was doing I became so distressed that my very shame at finding 
myself so lacking in humility gave me what I had presumed to 
ask. I knew quite well that it was lawful to ask for it, but I thought 
it was only so for those who have done all in their power to obtain 
true devotion by not offending God and by being ready and 
determined to do all that is good. Those tears of mine, as they did 
not obtain for me what I desired, seemed to me effeminate and 
weak. But all the same I think they were of some benefit to me; 
for, as I say, especially after those two occasions when they caused 
me such compunction and such distress of heart, I began to devote 
myself more to prayer and to have less to do with things that were 
hurtful for me: these last I did not wholly abandon, but, as I say, 
God kept on ^helping me to turn from them. As His Majesty 
was only awaiting some preparedness on my part, His spiritual 
favours continually increased, in the way I shall describe. It is not 
usual for the Lord to give them save to those who have a greater 
purity of conscience. 


Begins to describe the favours which the Lord granted her in prayer. 
Explains what part we ourselves can play here, and how important 
it is that we should understand the favours which the Lord is granting 
us. Asks those to whom she is sending this that the remainder of what 
she writes may be kept secret, since she has been commanded to 
describe in great detail the favours granted her by the Lord. 

I used sometimes, as I have said, to experience in an ele- 
mentary form, and very fleetingly, what I shall now describe* 


When picturing Christ in the way I have mentioned, and some- 
times even when reading, I used unexpectedly to experience a 
consciousness of the presence of God, of such a kind that I could 
not possibly doubt that He was within me or that I was wholly 
engulfed in Him. This was in no sense a vision: I believe it is 
called mystical theology. The soul is suspended in such a way that 
it seems to be completely outside itself. The will loves ; the memory, 
I think, is almost lost; while the understanding, I believe, though 
it is not lost, does not reason I mean that it does not work, but 
is amazed at the extent of all it can understand; for God wills 
it to realize that it understands nothing, of what His Majesty 
represents to it. 

Previously to this, I had experienced a tenderness in devotion, 
some part of which, I think, can be obtained by one's own 
efforts. This is a favour neither wholly of sense nor wholly of 
spirit, but entirely the gift of God. It seems, however, that we 
can do a great deal towards the obtaining of it by reflecting on 
our lowliness and our ingratitude to God, on the great things 
that He has done for us, on His Passion, with its grievous pains, 
and on His life, which was so full of afflictions. We can also 
do much by rejoicing in the contemplation of His works, His 
greatness. His love for us, and a great deal more. Anyone 
really anxious to make progress often lights upon such things 
as these, though he may not be going about looking for them. 
If to this there be added a little love, the soul is comforted, the 
heart melts and tears begin to flow: sometimes we seem to 
produce these tears by force; at other times the Lord seems to be 
drawing them from us and we cannot resist Him. For the trifling 
pains we have taken His Majesty appears to be requiting us 
with the great gift of the conifort which comes to a soul from 
seeing that it is weeping for so great a Lord; and I do not wonder 
at this, for it has ample reason to be comforted. For here it finds 
encouragement, and here it finds joy. 

The comparison which now suggests itself to me is, I think, 
a good one. These joys which come through prayer are some- 
thing like what the joys of Heaven must be. As the souls in 
Heaven see no more than the Lord wills them to see, and as 
this is in proportion to their merits, and they realize how small 
their merits are, each of them is content with the place given to 
him, and yet there is the very greatest difference in Heaven 
between one kind of fruition and another a difference much 
more marked than that between different kinds of spiritual joy 
on earth, though this is tremendous. When a soul is in its early 
stages of growth and God grants it this favour, it really thinks 
there is nothing more left for it to desire and counts itself well 

X] LIFE 59 

recompensed for all the service it has done Him. And it has 
ample reason for thinking so: a single one of these tears, which, 
as I say, we can cause to flow almost by ourselves (though 
nothing whatever can be done without God), cannot, I think, 
be purchased with all the labours in the world, so great is the 
gain which it brings us. And what greater gain is there than to 
have some evidence that we are pleasing God? Let anyone, 
then, who has arrived thus far give great praise to God and 
recognize how much he is in His debt. For it now seems that 
He wants him to be a member of His household and has chosen 
him for His kingdom, if he does not turn back. 

Let him not trouble about certain kinds of humility a of which 
I propose to treat. We may think it humility not to realize that 
the Lord is bestowing gifts upon us. Let us understand very, 
very clearly, how this matter stands. God gives us these gifts 
for no merit of ours. Let us be grateful to His Majesty for them, 
for, unless we recognize that we are receiving them, we shall 
not be aroused to love Him. And it is a most certain thing 
that, if we remember all the time that we are poor, the richer 
we find ourselves, the greater will be the profit that comes to 
us and the more genuine our humility. Another mistake is for 
the soul to be afraid, thinking itself incapable of receiving great 
blessings, with the result that, when the Lord begins to grant 
them, it grows fearful, thinking that it is sinning through vain- 
glory. Let us believe that, when the devil begins to tempt us 
about this, He Who gives us the blessings will also give us grace 
to realize that it is a temptation, and fortitude to resist it: I 
know God will do this if we walk before Him in simplicity, 
endeavouring to please Him alone and not men. 

It is a very evident truth that we love a person most when 
we have a vivid remembrance of the kind actions he has done 
us. If, then, it is lawful, and indeed meritorious, for us to remem- 
ber that it is from God that we have our being, and that He 
created us from nothing, and that He preserves us, and also to 
remember all the other benefits of His death and of the trials 
which He had suffered for all of us now living long before any 
of us was created, why should it not be lawful for me to under- 
stand, realize and consider again and again that, though, once 
I was wont to speak of vanities, the Lord has now granted me 
the desire to speak only of Himself. Here is a jewel which, when 
we remember that it is given us, and that indeed we already 
possess it, invites and constrains us to love, and all this is the 
blessing that comes from prayer founded on humility. What, 
then, will it be when we find ourselves in possession of other 
and more precious jewels, which some servants of God have 


already received, such as contempt for the world and even for 
themselves? It is clear that such persons must think of them- 
selves as still more in God's debt and under still greater obliga- 
tions to serve Him. We must realize that nothing of all this comes 
from ourselves and acknowledge the bounteousness of the Lord, 
Who on a soul as poor and wretched and undeserving as mine 
for whom the first of these jewels would have been enough, 
and more than enough was pleased to bestow greater riches 
than I could desire. f 

We must seek new strength with which to serve Him, and 
endeavour not to be ungrateful, for that is the condition on 
which the Lord bestows His jewels. Unless we make good use 
of His treasures, and of the high estate to which He brings us, 
He will take these treasures back from us, and we shall be 
poorer than before, and His Majesty will give the jewels to some 
other person who can display them to advantage and to his own 
profit and that of others. For how can a man unaware that he 
is rich make good use of his riches and spend them liberally? 
It is impossible, I think, taking our nature into consideration, 
that anyojie who fails to realize that he is favoured by God should 
have the courage necessary for doing great things. For we are 
so miserable and so much attracted by earthly things that only 
one who realizes that he holds some earnest of the joys of the 
next world will succeed in thoroughly abhorring and completely 
detaching himself from the things of this ; for it is through these 
gifts that the Lord bestows upon us the fortitude of which our 
sins have deprived us. And a man is unlikely to desire the dis- 
approval and abhorrence of all, or the other great virtues possessed 
by the perfect, unless he have some earnest of the love which God 
bears him and also a living faith. For our nature is so dead 
that we pursue what we see before us and so it is these very 
favours which awaken and strengthen faith. But it may well 
be that I am judging others by my wicked self, and that there 
may be some who need no more than the truths of the Faith 
to enable them to perform works of great perfection, whereas I, 
wretched woman, have need of everything. 

Such as these must speak for themselves. I am describing my 
own experiences, as I have been commanded to do; if he to 
whom I send this does not approve of it, he will tear it up, and 
he will know what is wrong with it better than I. But I beseech 
him, for the love of the Lord, that what I have thus far said 
concerning my wicked life and sins be published. I give this 
permission, here and now, both to him and to all my confessors, 
of whom he who will receive this is one. If they like, they can 
publish it now, during my lifetime, so that I may no longer 

X] LIFE 61 

deceive the world and those who think there is some good in 
me. I am speaking the absolute and literal truth when I say 
that, as far as I understand myself at present, this will give me 
great comfort. But I do not make that permission applicable to what 
I shall say from now onwards ; if this should be shown to any- 
one, I do not wish it to be stated to whom it refers, whose ex- 
perience it recounts or who is its author; and for that reason 
I do not mention myself or anyone else by name. I shall write 
it all as well as I can, in order that my authorship may not be 
recognized. This I beg for the love of God. The authority of 
persons so learned and serious as my confessors suffices for the 
approval of any good thing that I may say, if the Lord gives 
me grace to say it, in which case it will not be mine but His; 
for I have no learning, nor have I led a good life, nor do I get 
my information from a learned man or from any other person 
whatsoever. Only those who have commanded me to write 
this 1 know that I am doing so, and at the moment they are not 
here. I am almost stealing the time for writing, and that with 
great difficulty, for it hinders me from spinning and I am living 
in a poor house and have numerous things to do. If the Lord 
had given me more ability, and a better memory, I might have 
profited by what I have heard or read, but I have little ability 
or memory of my own. If, then, I say any good thing, it will 
be because the Lord has been pleased, for some good purpose, 
that I should say it, while whatever is bad is my own work and 
Your Reverence will delete it. In neither case is there any 
advantage in giving my name. During my lifetime, of course, 
nothing good that I may have done ought to be talked about; 
and after my death there will be no point in mentioning me, 
for to do so would bring discredit on this good, to which no one 
would give credence if it were to be related of one so base and 
wicked as I. 

And as I think that Your Reverence, and others who are to 
see this, will do what, for love of the Lord, I am asking you, 
I am writing quite freely. In any other case, I should have 
great scruples about writing at all, except to confess my sins, 
about doing which I have none. For the rest, the very thought 
that I am a woman is enough to make my wings droop how 
much more, then, the thought that I am such a wicked one! 
So Your Reverence must take the responsibility for everything 
beyond the simple story of my life (since you have importuned 
me so earnestly to write some account of the favours which God 

1 These persons, according to a manuscript note by P. Gracian to be found in a copy 
of the first edition of St. Teresa's works, were " Master Fray Domingo Bdnea and Fray 
Gardade Toledo". 


grants me in prayer), if it be in accordance with the truths of 
our holy Catholic Faith; and if it be not. Your Reverence must 
burn it at once I am quite willing for you to do that. I will 
describe my experiences, so that, if what I write is in accordance 
with these truths, it may be of some use to Your Reverence; 
if it be not, my soul will be disillusioned, and, if I am not gaining 
anything myself, as I trust I am, there will at least be no gain 
for the devil. The Lord well knows that, as I shall say later, 
I have always tried to seek out those who will enlighten me. 
Howfever clearly I may wish to describe these matters which 
concern prayer, they will be very obscure to anyone who has 
no experience of it. I shall describe certain hindrances, which, 
as I understand it, prevent people from making progress on 
this road, and also certain other sources of danger about which 
the Lord has taught me by experience. More recently I have 
discussed these things with men of great learning and persons 
who have led spiritual lives for many years ; and they have seen 
that in the twenty-seven years during which I have been 
practising prayer, His Majesty has given me experiences, ill as 
I have walked and often as I have stumbled on this road, for 
which others need thirty-seven, or even forty-seven, in spite of 
having made steady progress and practised penitence and 
attained virtue. May His Majesty be blessed for everything, 
and may He, for His name's sake, make use of me. For my 
Lord well knows that I have no other desire than this, that He 
may be praised and magnified a little when it is seen that on so 
foul and malodorous a dunghill He has planted a garden of sweet 
flowers. May His Majesty grant that I may not root them up 
through my faults and become what I was before. This I beseech 
Your Reverence, for love of the Lord, to beg Him for me, for 
you know what I am more clearly than you have permitted me 
to say here. 


Gives the reason why we do not learn to love God perfectly in a short 
time. Begins, by means of a comparison, to describe four degrees 
of prayer, Concerning the first of which something is here said. 
This is most profitable for beginners and for those who are receiving 
no consolations in prayer. 

I shall now speak of those who are beginning to be the servants 
of love for this, I think, is what we become when we resolve 
to follow in this way of prayer Him Who so greatly loved us. 

XI] LIFE 63 

So great a dignity is this that thinking of it alone brings me a 
strange comfort, for servile fear vanishes at once if while we 
are at this first stage we act as we should. O Lord of my soul 
and my Good! Why, when a soul has resolved to love Thee 
and by forsaking everything does all in its power towards that 
end, so that it may the better employ itself in the love of God, 
hast Thou been pleased that it should not at once have the 
joy of ascending to the possession of this perfect love? But I 
am wrong: I should have made my complaint by asking why 
we ourselves have no desire so to ascend, for it is we alone who 
are at fault in not at once enjoying so great a dignity. If we 
attain to the perfect possession of this true love of God, it brings 
all blessings with it. But so niggardly and so slow are we in 
giving ourselves wholly to God that we do not prepare ourselves 
as we should to receive that precious thing which it is His 
Majesty's will that we should enjoy only at a great price. 

I am quite clear that there is nothing on earth with which 
so great a blessing can be purchased; but if we did what we 
could to obtain it, if we cherished no attachment to earthly 
things, and if all our cares 'and all our intercourse were centred 
in Heaven, I believe there is no doubt that this blessing would 
be given us very speedily, provided we prepared ourselves 
for it thoroughly and quickly, as did some of the saints. 
But we think we are giving God everything, whereas what we 
are really offering Him is the revenue or the fruits of our land 
while .keeping the stock and the right of ownership of it in our 
own hands. We have made a resolve to be poor, and that is a 
resolution of great merit; but we often begin to plan and strive 
again so that we may have no lack, not only of necessaries, but 
even of superfluities; we try to make friends who will give 
us these, lest we should lack anything; and we take greater 
pains, and perhaps even run greater risks, than we did before, 
when we had possessions of our own. Presumably, again, when 
we became nuns, or previously, when we began to lead spiritual 
lives and to follow after perfection, we abandoned all thought 
of our own importance; 1 and yet hardly is our self-importance 
wounded 2 than we quite forget that we have surrendered it to 
God and we try to seize it again, and wrest it, as they say, out 
of His very hands, although we had apparently made Him Lord 
of our will. And the same thing happens with everything 

1 \Horvra. Gf. p. I4 a n. 2 above. This is an example of the use of the word to denote 
something reprehensible in nuns: elsewhere she adjures her sisters to think (in another 
sense) of their own honra, or reputation.] 

*[Ltt.: "hardly have they touched us in a point of honour." Cf. the use of 
"punto de honra" or "pundonor" in Spanish drama*] 


A nice way of seeking the love of God is this ! We expect 
great handfuls of it, as one might say, and yet we want to reserve 
our affections for ourselves! We make no effort to carry our 
desires into effect or to raise them far abpve the earth. It is 
hardly suitable that people who act in this way should have 
many spiritual consolations; the two things seem to me incom- 
patible. So, being unable to make a full surrender of ourselves, 
we are never given a full supply of this treasure. May His Majesty 
be pleased to give it to us little by little, even though the receiving 
of it may cost us all the trials in the world. 

The Lord shows exceeding great mercy to him whom He 
gives grace and courage to resolve to strive after this blessing 
with all his might. For God denies Himself to no one who 
perseveres but gradually increases the courage of such a one till 
he achieves victory. I say "courage" because of the numerous 
obstacles which the devil at first sets in his path to hinder him 
from ever setting out upon it, for the devil knows what harm 
will come to him thereby and that he will lose nob only that one 
soul but many more. If by the help of God the beginner strives 
to reach the summit of perfection, I do not believe he will ever 
go to Heaven alone but will always take many others with 
him: God treats him like a good captain, and gives him soldiers 
to go in his company. So many are the dangers and difficulties 
which the devil sets before him that if he is not to turn back 
he needs not merely a little courage but a very great deal, and 
much help from God. 

To say something, then, of the early experiences of those who 
are determined to pursue this blessing and to succeed in this 
enterprise (I shall continue later with what I began to say about 
mystical theology, as I believe it is called) : it is in these early 
stages that their labour is hardest, for it is they themselves who 
labour and the Lord Who gives the increase. In the other degrees 
of prayer the chief thing is fruition, although, whether at the 
beginning, in the middle or at the end of the road, all have their 
crosses, different as these may be. For those who follow Christ 
must take the way which He took, unless they want to be lost. 
Blessed are their labours, which even here, in this life, have 
such abundant recompense. I shall have to employ some kind 
of comparison, though, being a woman and writing simply 
what I am commanded, I should like to avoid doing so ; but this 
spiritual language is so hard to use for such as, like myself, have 
no learning, that I shall have to seek some such means of con- 
veying my ideas. It may be that my comparison will seldom do 
this successfully and Your Reverence will be amused to see how 
stupid I am. But it comes to my mind now that I have read 

XI] LIFE 65 

or heard of this comparison: as I have a bad memory, I do not 
know where it occurred or what it illustrated, but it satisfies 
me at the moment as an illustration of my own. 

The beginner must think of himself as of one setting out to 
make a garden in which the Lord is to take His delight, yet in 
soil most unfruitful and full of weeds. His Majesty uproots the 
weeds and will set good plants in their stead. Let us suppose 
that this is already done that a soul has resolved to practise 
prayer and has already begun to do so. We have now, by God's 
help, like good gardeners, to make these plants grow, and to 
water them carefully, so that they may not perish, but may 
produce flowers which shall send forth great fragrance to give 
refreshment to this Lord of ours, so that He may often come 
into the garden to take His pleasure and have His delight among 
these virtues. 

Let us now consider how this garden can be watered, so that 
we may know what we have to do, what labour it will cost us, 
if the gain will outweigh the labour and for how long this labour 
must be borne. It seems to me that the garden can be watered 
in four ways: by taking the water from a well, which costs us 
great labour; or by a water-wheel and buckets, when the water 
is drawn by a windlass (I have sometimes drawn it in this way: 
it is less laborious than the other and gives more water); or 
by a stream or a brook, which waters the ground much better, 
for it saturates it more thoroughly and there is less need to 
water it often, so that the gardener's labour is much less; or 
by heavy rain, when the Lord waters it with no labour of ours, 
a way incomparably better than any of those which have been 

And now I come to my point, which is the application of 
these four methods of watering by which the garden is to be 
kept fertile, for if it has no water it will be ruined. It has seemed 
possible to me in this way to explain something about the four 
degrees of prayer to which the Lord, of His goodness, has occasion- 
ally brought my soul. May He also of His goodness grant me to 
speak in such a 4 way as to be of some profit to one of the persons 
who commanded me to write this book, 1 whom in four months 
the Lord has brought to a point far beyond that which I have 
reached in seventeen years. He prepared himself better than I, 
and thus his garden, without labour on his part, is watered by 
all these four means, though he is still receiving the last watering 
only -drop by drop; such progress is his garden making that 
soon, by the Lord's help, it will be submerged. It will be a 

1 "P. Pedra Ibanez", observes P. Gracian, in another manuscript note to the copy 
of the first edition of St. Teresa's works referred to above (pp. 7-8). 


pleasure to me for him to laugh at my explanation if he thinks 
it foolish. 

Beginners in prayer, we may say, are those who draw up 
the water out of the well : this, as I have said, is a very laborious 
proceeding, for it will fatigue them to keep their senses recollected, 
which is a great labour because they have been accustomed to 
a life of distraction. Beginners must accustom themselves to 
pay no heed to what they see or hear, and they must practise 
doing this during hours of prayer; they must be alone and in 
their solitude think over their past life all of us, indeed, whether 
beginners or proficients, must do this frequently. There are 
differences, however, in the degree to which it must be done, 
as I shall show later. At first it causes distress, for beginners 
are not always sure that they have repented of their sins (though 
clearly they have, since they have so sincerely resolved to serve 
God). Then they have to endeavour to meditate upon the life 
of Christ and this fatigues their minds. Thus far we can make 
progress by ourselves of course with the help of God, for without 
that, as is well known, we cannot think a single good thought. 
This is what is meant by beginning to draw up water from the 
well and God grant there may be water in it! But that, at 
least, does not depend on us: our task is to draw it up and to 
do what we can to water the flowers. And God is so good that 
when, for reasons known to His Majesty, perhaps to our great 
advantage, He is pleased that the well should be dry, we, like 
good gardeners, do all that in us lies, and He keeps the flowers 
alive without water and makes the virtues grow. By water here 
I mean tears or, if there be none of these, tenderness and an 
interior feeling of devotion. 

What, then, will he do here who finds that for many days 
he experiences nothing but aridity, dislike, distaste and so little 
desire to go and draw water that he would give it up entirely if 
he did not remember that he is pleasing and serving the Lord 
of the garden; if he were not anxious that all his service should 
not be lost, to say nothing of the gain which he hopes for from 
the great labour of lowering the bucket so often into the well and 
drawing it up without water? It will often happen that, even for 
that purpose, he is unable to move his arms unable, that is, to 
think a single good thought, for working with the understanding is 
of course the same as drawing water out of the well. What, then, 
as I say, will the gardener do here? He will be glad and take 
heart and consider it the greatest of favours to work in the garden 
of so x great an Emperor; and, as he knows that he is pleasing Him 
by so working (and his purpose must be to please, not himself, 
but Him), let him render Him great praise for having placed such 

XI] LIFE 67 

confidence in him, when He has seen that, without receiving any 
recompense, he is taking such great care of that which He had 
entrusted to him; let him help Him to bear the Cross and consider 
how He lived with it all His life long; let him not wish to have his 
kingdom on earth or ever cease from prayer; and so let him 
resolve, even if this aridity should persist his whole life long, 
never to let Christ fall beneath the Cross. The time will come 
when he shall receive his whole reward at once. Let him have 
no fear that his labour will be lost. He is serving a good Master, 
Whose eyes are upon him. Let him pay no heed to evil thoughts, 
remembering how the devil put such thoughts into the mind of 
Saint Jerome in the desert. 1 

These trials bring their own reward. I endured them for many 
years ; and, when I was able to draw but one drop of water from 
this blessed well, I used to think that God was granting me a 
favour. I know how grievous such trials are and I think they need 
more courage than do many others in the world. But it has 
become clear to me that, even in this life, God does not fail to 
recompense them highly; for it is quite certain that a single one 
of those hours in which the Lord has granted me to taste of 
Himself has seemed to me later a recompense for all the afflic- 
tions which I endured over a long period while keeping up the 
practice of prayer. I believe myself that often in the early 
stages, and again later, it is the Lord's will to give us these 
tortures, and many other temptations which present themselves, 
in order to test His lovers and discover if they can drink of the 
chalice and help Him to bear the Cross before He trusts them 
with His great treasures. I believe it is for our good that His 
Majesty is pleased to lead us in this way so that we may have a 
clear understanding of our worthlessness; for the favours which 
come later are of such great dignity that before He grants us 
them He wishes us to know by experience how miserable we 
are, lest what happened to Lucifer happen to us also. 

What is there that Thou doest, my Lord, which is not for the 
greater good of the soul that Thou knowest to be already Thine 
and that places itself in Thy power, to follow Thee whithersoever 
Thou gocst, even to the death of the Cross, and is determined 
to help Thee bear that Cross and not to leave Thee alone with 
it? If anyone finds himself thus determined, there is nothing 
for him to fear. No, spiritual people, there is no reason to be 
distressed. Once you have reached so high a state as this, in 
which you desire to be alone and to commune with God, and 

1 The reference is to the twenty-second epistle of St. Jerome "Ad Eustochium'% 
which describes how vividly there would come to him in the desert pictures of the 
pomps and vanities of pagan Rome. 


abandon the pastimes of the world, the chief part of your work 
is done. Praise His Majesty for this and trust in His goodness, 
which never yet failed His friends. Close the eyes of your thought 
and do not wonder: "Why is He giving devotion to that person 
of so few days' experience, and none to me after so many years? " 
Let us believe that it is all for our greater good; let His Majesty 
guide us whithersoever He wills; we are not our own, but His. 
It is an exceeding great favour that He shows us when it is His 
pleasure that we should wish to dig in His garden, and we are 
then near the Lord of the garden. Who is certainly with us. 
If it be His will that these plants and flowers should grow, some 
by means of the water drawn from this well and others without 
it, what matter is that to me? Do Thou, O Lord, what Thou 
wilt; let me not offend Thee and let not my virtues perish, if, 
of Thy goodness alone, Thou hast given me any. I desire to 
suffer, Lord, because Thou didst suifer. Let Thy will be in 
every way fulfilled in me, and may it never please Thy Majesty 
that a gift so precious as Thy love be given to people who serve 
Thee solely to obtain consolations. 

It must be carefully noted and I say this because I know it 
by experience that the soul which begins to walk resolutely 
in this way of mental prayer and can persuade itself to set little 
store by consolations and tenderness in devotion, and neither to 
be elated when the Lord gives them nor disconsolate when He 
withholds them, has already travelled a great part of its journey. 
However often it may stumble, it need not fear a relapse, for 
its building has been begun on a firm foundation. 1 Yes, love 
for God does not consist in shedding tears, in enjoying those 
consolations and that tenderness which for the most part we 
desire and in which we find comfort, but in serving Him with 
righteousness, fortitude of soul and humility. The other seems 
to me to be receiving rather than giving anything. 

As for poor women like myself, who are weak and lack fortitude, 
I think it fitting that we should be led by means of favours : this 
is the way in which God is leading me now, so that I may be able 
to suffer certain trials which it has pleased His Majesty to give 
me. But when I hear servants of God, men of weight, learning 
and intelligence, making such a fuss because God is not giving 
them devotion, it revolts me to listen to them. I do not mean 
that, when God gives them such a thing, they ought not to accept 
it and set a great deal of store by it, because in that case His 
Majesty must know that it is good for them. But I do mean that 
if they do not receive it they should not be distressed : they should 
realize that, as His Majesty does not give it them, it is unnecessary; 

1 [The metaphors here follow the Spanish exactly.] 

XI] LIFE 69 

they should be masters of themselves and go on their way. Let 
them believe that they are making a mistake about this : I have 
proved it and seen that it is so. Let them believe that it is an 
imperfection in them if, instead of going on their way with 
freedom of spirit, they hang back through weakness and lack of 

I am not saying this so much for beginners (though I lay some 
stress upon it, even for these, because it is of great importance 
that they should start with this freedom and determination): 
I mean it rather for others. There must be many who have begun 
some time back and never manage to finish their course, and I 
believe it is largely because they do not embrace the Cross from 
the beginning that they are distressed and think that they are 
making no progress. When the understanding ceases to work, 
they cannot bear it, though perhaps even then the will is increasing 
in power, and putting on new strength, 1 without their knowing 
it. We must realize that the Lord pays no heed to these things : 
to us they may look like faults, but they are not so. His Majesty 
knows our wretchedness and the weakness of our nature better 
than we ourselves and He knows that all the time these souls are 
longing to think of Him and to love Him. It is this determination 
that He desires in us. The other afflictions which we bring 
upon ourselves serve only to disturb our souls, and the result of 
them is that, if we find ourselves unable to get profit out of a 
single hour, we are impeded from doing so for four. I have a 
great deal of experience of this and I know that what I say is true, 
for I have observed it carefully and have discussed it afterwards 
with spiritual persons. The thing frequently arises from physical 
indisposition, for we are such miserable creatures that this poor 
imprisoned soul shares in the miseries of the body, and variations 
of season and changes in the humours often prevent it from 
accomplishing its desires and make it suffer in all kinds of ways 
against its will. The more we try to force it at times like these, 
the worse it gets and the longer the trouble lasts- But let dis- 
cretion be observed so that it may be ascertained if this is the true 
reason : the poor soul must not be stifled. Persons in this condition 
must realize that they are ill and make some alteration in their 
hours of prayer; very often it will be advisable to continue this 
change for some days. 

They must endure this exile as well as they can, for a soul which 
loves God has often the exceeding ill fortune to realize that, 
living as it is in this state of misery, it cannot do what it desires 
because of its evil guest, the body. I s?dd we must observe dis- 

1 [Lit. : "is growing fat and taking strength." Fatness is often spoken of in Spain as 
synonymous with robustness and made a subject of congratulation.] 


cretion, because sometimes the same effects will be produced by 
the devil; and so it is well that prayer should not always be given 
up when the mind is greatly distracted and disturbed, nor the 
soul tormented by being made to do what is not in its power. 
There are other things which can be done exterior acts, such 
as reading or works of charity though sometimes the soul will 
be unable to do even these. At such times the soul must render 
the body a service for the love of God, so that on many other 
occasions the body may render services to the soul. Engage in 
some spiritual recreation, such as conversation (so long as it is 
really spiritual), or a country walk, according as your confessor 
advises. In all these things it is important to have had experience, 
for from this we learn what is fitting for us ; but let God be served 
in all things. Sweet is His yoke, and it is essential that we should 
not drag the soul along with us, so to say, but lead it gently, so 
that it may make the greater progress. 

I repeat my advice, then (and it matters not how often I say 
this, for it is of great importance), that one must never be depressed 
or afflicted because of aridities or unrest or distraction of the mind. 
If a person would gain spiritual freedom and not be continually 
troubled, let him begin by not being afraid of the Cross and he 
will find that the Lord will help him to bear it; he will then advance 
happily and find profit in everything. It is now clear that, if no 
water is coming from the well, we ourselves can put nont into it. 
But of course we must not be careless : water must always be 
drawn when there is any there, for at such a time God's will is 
that we should use it so that He may multiply our virtues. 


Continues to describe this first state. Tells how far, with the help of God, 
we can advance by ourselves and describes the harm that ensues when 
the spirit attempts to aspire to unusual and supernatural experiences 
before they are bestowed upon it by the Lord. 

Although in the last chapter I digressed a good deal about 
other things, because they seemed to me very necessary, what I 
was trying to make clear was how much we can attain by our 
own power and how in this first stage of devotion we can do a 
certain amount for ourselves. For, if we examine and meditate 
upon the Lord's sufferings for us, we are moved to compassion, 
and this grief and the tears which proceed from it are very sweet. 
And then if we think about the glory we hope for, and the love 


which the Lord bore us, and His resurrection, we are moved to a 
rejoicing which is neither wholly spiritual nor wholly sensual, 
but is a virtuous joy; the grief also is of great merit. Of this nature 
are all the things which cause a devotion acquired in part by the 
understanding, though this can be neither merited nor attained 
unless it be given by God, It is best for a soul which has been 
raised no higher than this not to try to rise by its own efforts. Let 
this be noted carefully, for if the soul does try so to rise it will 
make no progress but only go backward. 

In this state it can make many acts of resolution to do great 
things for God and it can awaken its own love. It can make 
other acts which will help the virtues to grow, as is explained 
in a book called The Art of serving God,* which is very good and 
suitable for persons in this state, because in it the understanding is 
active. The soul can picture itself in the presence of Christ, 
and accustom itself to become enkindled with great love for His 
sacred Humanity and to have Him ever with it and speak with 
Him, ask Him for the things it has need of, make complaints 
to Him of its trials, rejoice with Him in its joys and yet never 
allow its joys to make it forgetful of Him. It has no need to think 
out set prayers but can use just such words as suit its desires and 
needs. This is an excellent way of making progress, and of 
making it very quickly; and if anyone strives always to have this 
precious companionship, makes good use of it and realty learns to 
love this Lord to Whom we owe so much, such a one, I think, has 
achieved a definite gain. 

For this reason, as I have said, we must not be troubled if we 
have no conscious devotion, but thank the Lord Who allows us to 
harbour a desire to please Him, although our deeds may be of 
little worth. This method of bringing Christ into our lives is helpful 
at all stages ; it is a most certain means of making progress in the 
earliest stage, of quickly reaching the second degree of prayer, 
and, in the final stages, of keeping ourselves safe from the dangers 
into which the devil may lead us. 

This, then, is what we can do. If anyone tries to pass beyond 
this stage and lift up his spirit so as to experience consolations 
which are not being given to him, I think he is losing both in 
the one respect and in the other. For these consolations are 
supernatural and, when the understanding ceases to act, the soul 
remains barren and suffers great aridity. And, as the foundation 
of the entire edifice is humility, the nearer we come to God, the 
greater must be the progress which we make in this virtue: 
otherwise, we lose everything. It seems to be- a kind of pride that 

1 By the Franciscan P. Alonso de Madrid: first published at Seville in 1531 anci 
reprinted many times in the sixteenth century. 


makes us wish to rise higher, for God is already doing more for us 
than we deserve by bringing us near to Him. It must not be 
supposed that I am referring here to the lifting up of the mind to 
a consideration of the high things of Heaven or of God, and of the 
wonders which are in Heaven, and of God's great wisdom. I 
never did this myself, for, as I have said, I had no ability for it, 
and I knew myself to be so wicked that even when it came to 
thinking of earthly things God granted me grace to understand 
this truth, that it was no small presumption in me to do so how 
much more as to heavenly things! Other persons will profit in 
this way, especially if they are learned, for learning, I think, is a 
priceless help in this exercise, if humility goes with it. Only a 
few days ago I observed that this was so in certain learned men, 
who began but a short while since and have made very great 
, progress ; and this gives me great longings that many more learned 
men should become spiritual, as I shall say later. 

When I say that people should not try to rise unless they are 
raised by God I am using the language of spirituality; anyone 
who has had any experience will understand me and if what I 
have already said cannot be understood I do not know how to 
explain it. In the mystical theology which I began to describe, 
the understanding loses its power of working, because God sus- 
pends it, as I shall explain further by and by if God grants me 
His help for that purpose. What I say we must not do is to pre- 
sume or think that we can suspend it ourselves ; nor must we allow 
it to cease working: if we do, we shall remain stupid and cold 
and shall achieve nothing whatsoever. When the Lord suspends 
the understanding and makes it cease from its activity, He gives it 
something which both amazes it and keeps it busy, so that, 
without reasoning in any way, it can understand more in a short 
space of time than we, with all our human efforts, in many years. 
To keep the faculties of the soul busy and to think that, at the 
same time, you can keep them quiet, is foolishness. And I say 
once more that, although the fact is not generally realized, there 
is no great humility in this : it may not be sinful, but it certainly 
causes distress, for it is lost labour, and the soul feels slightly 
frustrated, like a man who is just about to take a leap and then is 
pulled back, so that he seems to have put forth his strength and 
yet finds that he has not accomplished what he had expected to. 
Anyone who will consider the matter will detect, in the slightness 
of the gain achieved by the soul, this very slight lack of humility of 
which I have spoken. For that virtue has this excellent trait 
that when an action is accompanied by it the soul is never left 
with any feeling of irritation. I think I have made this clear, 
though it may possibly be so only to me. May the Lord open the 


eyes of those who read this by granting them experience of it, and, 
however slight that experience may be, they will at once under- 
stand it. 

I spent a good many years doing a great deal of reading and 
understanding nothing of what I read; for a long time, though 
God was teaching me, I could not utter a word to explain His 
teaching to others, and this was no light trial to me. When His 
Majesty so wills He can teach everything in a moment, in a way 
that amazes me. I can truthfully say this : though I used to talk 
with many spiritual persons, who would try to explain what the 
Lord was teaching me so that I might be able to speak about it, 
I was so stupid that I could not get the slightest profit from their 
instruction. Possibly, as His Majesty has always been my teacher 
may He be blessed for everything, for I am thoroughly ashamed 
at being able to say that this is the truth , it may have been His 
will that I should be indebted to no one else for my knowledge. 
In any case, without my wishing it or asking for it (for I have 
never been curious about such things, as it would have been a 
virtue in me to be, but only about vanities), God suddenly gave 
me a completely clear understanding of the whole thing, so that 
I was able to speak about it in such a way that people were 
astounded. And I myself was more astounded even than my own 
confessors, for I was more conscious than they of my own stupidity. 
This happened only a short time ago. So I do not now attempt to 
learn what the Lord has not taught me, unless it be something 
affecting my conscience. 

Once more I repeat my advice that it is very important that we 
should not try to lift up our spirits unless they are lifted up by the 
Lord : in the latter case we shall become aware of the fact in- 
stantly. It is specially harmful for women to make such attempts, 
because the devil can foster illusions in them, although I am 
convinced that the Lord never allows anyone to be harmed who 
strives to approach Him with humility: rather will he derive more 
profit and gain from the very experience through which the devil 
thought to send him to perdition. As this road is that most 
generally taken by beginners, and the counsels that I have given 
are of great importance, I have said a good deal about it. I 
confess that others have written about it much better elsewhere, 
and I have felt great confusion and shame in writing of it, though 
less than I should. May the Lord be blessed for it all, Whose will 
and pleasure it is that one such as I should speak of things that are 
His things of such a nature as these and so sublime! 



Continues to describe this first state and gives counsels for dealing with 
certain temptations which the devil is sometimes wont to prepare. 
This chapter is very profitable. 

It has seemed to me appropriate to speak of certain tempta- 
tions which, as I have observed, often attack beginners I have 
had some of them myself and to give counsels about matters 
which appear to me necessary. In the early stages, then, one 
should strive to feel happy and free. There are some people 
who think that devotion will slip away from them if they relax 
a little. It is well to have misgivings about oneself and not to 
allow self-confidence to lead one into occasions which habitually 
involve offences against God. This is most necessary until one 
becomes quite perfect in virtue; and there are not many who are 
so perfect as to be able to relax when occasions present themselves 
which tempt their own peculiar disposition. It is well that, 
all our lives long, we should recognize the worthlessness of our 
nature, if only for the sake of humility. Yet there are many 
circumstances in which, as I have said, it is permissible for us 
to take some recreation, in order that we may be the stronger 
when we return to prayer. In everything we need discretion. 

We must have great confidence, for it is most important 
that we should not cramp our good desires, but should believe 
that, with God's help, if we make continual efforts to do so, we 
shall attain, though perhaps not at once, to that which many 
saints have reached through His favour. If they had never 
resolved to desire to attain this and to carry their desires con- 
tinually into effect, they would never have risen to as high a 
state as they did. His Majesty desires and loves courageous 
souls if they have no confidence in themselves but walk in 
humility; and I have never seen any such person hanging back 
on this road, nor any soul that, under the guise of humility, 
acted like a coward, go as far in many years as the courageous 
soul can in few. I am astounded at how much can be done on 
this road if one has the courage to attempt great things; the soul 
may not have the strength to achieve these things at once but 
if it takes a flight it can make good progress, though, like a little 
unfledged bird, it is apt to grow tired and stop. 

At one time I used often to bear in mind the words of Saint 
Paul, that everything is possible in God: 1 I realized quite well 

1 [Presumably a reference to Philippians v, 13, unless the author is attributing Our 
Lord's words in St. Matthew xix, 26 to St Paul.] 


that in myself I could do nothing. This was a great help to me, 
as were also the words of Saint Augustine: "Give me, Lord, what 
Thou commandest me and command what Thou wilt." 1 I used 
often to reflect that Saint Peter had lost nothing by throwing 
himself into the sea, though after he had done so he was afraid. 2 
These first resolutions are of great importance, although during 
this first stage we have to go slowly and to be guided by the 
discretion and opinion of our director; but we must see to it 
that he is not the kind of person to teach us to be like toads, 
satisfied if our souls show themselves fit only to catch lizards. 
We must always keep humility before us, so that we may realize 
that this strength cannot proceed from any strength of our own. 

But it is necessary that we should realize what kind of humility 
this must be, for I believe the devil does a great deal of harm to 
those who practise prayer by encouraging misunderstandings 
about humility in them so as to prevent them from making much 
progress. He persuades us that it is pride which makes us have 
ambitious desires and want to imitate the saints and wish to be 
martyrs. Then he tells us, or induces us to believe, that we who 
are sinners may admire the deeds of the saints but must not 
copy them. I myself would agree with him to the extent that we 
must consider which of their deeds we are to admire and which 
to imitate. Fpr it would not be a good thing for a person who was 
weak and ill to indulge in a great deal of fasting and in severe 
penances, or to go to a desert where he could not sleep or get 
anything to eat, or to attempt other things of that kind. But we 
must reflect that, with the help of God, we can strive to have a 
great contempt for the world, no regard for honour, and no 
attachment to possessions. For so ungenerous are we that we 
imagine the earth will go from under our feet if we try to forget 
the body a little and to cultivate the spirit. Or, again, we think 
that to have an abundance of all we need is a help to recollection 
because anxieties disturb prayer, 

It distresses me to reflect that we have so little confidence in 
God, and so much love for ourselves, that anxieties like this 
upset us. When we have made so little spiritual progress, the 
smallest things will trouble us as much as important and weighty 
things will trouble others, and yet in our own minds we presume 
to think ourselves spiritual. Now to me it seems that this kind of 
life is an attempt to reconcile body and soul, so that we may lose 
neither comfort in this world nor fruition of God iix the world 
to come. We shall get along all right if we walk in righteousness 
and hold fast to virtue, but it will mean advancing at the pace 

1 "Da quod jubes et jube quod vis" (Confessions, Bk. X, Chap, XXIX). 

2 St. Matthew xiv, 29. 


of a hen and will never lead us to spiritual freedom. This is a 
procedure which seems to me quite good for people who are in 
the married state and have to live in accordance with their voca- 
tion; but in any other state I should not at all like to see such a 
method of progress nor will anyone persuade me to think it a 
good one. For I have tried it; and I should have been practising 
it still if the Lord in His goodness had not shown me another 
and a shorter road. 

With regard to this matter of desires, my own were always 
ambitious, but I strove, as I have said, to practise prayer and yet 
to live according to my own pleasure. If there had been anyone 
to encourage me to soar higher, I think he might have brought 
me to a state in which these desires were carried into effect; 
but, for our sins, those who are not over-cautious in this respect 
are very few and far between, and that, I think, is sufficient 
reason why those who begin do not more quickly attain to great 
perfection. For the Lord never fails us and the fault is not His : 
it is we who are faulty and miserable. 

We may also imitate the saints by striving after solitude and 
silence and many other virtues; such things will not kill these 
wretched bodies of ours, which- want to have everything organized 
for their benefit in such a way as to disorganize the soul and which 
the devil does his best to incapacitate when he sees that we are 
getting fearful about them. That is quite enough for him: he 
tries at once to persuade us that all these habits of devotion will 
kill us, or ruin our health; he even makes us afraid that if we weep 
we shall go blind. I have experienced this, so I know it and I 
also know that we can desire no better kind of sight or health 
than to lose both in so good a cause. As my own health is so bad, 
I was always impeded by my fears, and my devotion was of no 
value at all until I resolved not to worry any more about my body 
or my health; and now I trouble about them very little. For it 
pleased God to reveal to me this device of the devil; and so, 
whenever the devil suggested that I should ruin my health, 
I would reply: "Even if I die it is of little consequence." "Rest, 
indeed!" I would say. "I need no rest; what I need is crosses." 
And so with other things. I saw clearly that in very many cases, 
although in fact I have very bad health, it was a temptation 
either of the devil or of my own weakness ; and since I have been 
less self-regarding and indulgent my health has been very much 
better. It is of great importance^ when we begin to practise 
prayer, not to let ourselves be frightened by our own thoughts. 
And you may take my word for this, for I have learned it by 
experience; this mere narration of my faults might be of use to 
others if they will take warning by me. 


There is another temptation which is very common namely 
to desire that everyone should be extremely spiritual when one 
is beginning to find what tranquillity, and what profit, spirituality 
brings. It is not wrong to desire this but it may not be right 
to try to bnng it about unless we do so with Such discretion and 
dissimulation that we give no impression of wanting to teach 
others. For if a person is to do any good in this respect he must 
be very strong in the virtues so as not to put temptation in 
others' way. This I found out for myself and that is why I 
realize it. When, as J have said, I tried to get others to practise 
prayer, and when on the one hand they would hear me saying 
so much about the blessedness of prayer, while on the other they 
would observe that I, who practised it, was so poverty-stricken 
in virtue, it would lead them into temptations and various Muds 
of foolishness. And they had good reason on their side; for, as 
they have since told me, they could not see how one of these 
things could be compatible with the other. And so they came to 
believe that there was nothing wrong in what was intrinsically 
evil; for they saw that I sometimes did such things and at that 
time they had rather a good opinion of me. 

This is the devil's doing. He seems to make use of the virtues 
which we have, and which are good, in order to give such authority 
as he can to the evil which he is trying to make us do : however 
trifling the evil may be, it must be of great value to him when 
it is done in a religious community how much more, then, 
must he have gained from the evil which I did, for it was very 
great. So, over a period of many years, only three persons 
derived any profit from what I said to them; 1 whereas, now that 
the Lord has made me stronger in virtue, many persons have 
derived such profit in the course of two or three years, as I shall 
afterwards relate. In addition, there is another great disad- 
vantage in yielding to this temptation: namely, the harm caused 
to our own soul; for the utmost we have to do at first is to take 
care of our soul and to remember that in the entire world there 
is only God and the soul; 2 and this is a thing which it is very 
profitable to remember. 

Another temptation comes from the distress caused by the 

1 According to P. Gracian, these persons were Maria de San Pablo, Ana de los 
Angeles and Dona Maria de Gepeda. The same names are given by P. Grecian's 
sister, M. Maria de San Jose*. (B.Nac., MS. 12,936.) [Lewis, however (p. 98, n. 6), 
aptly remarks that, as shown in Chap. VII (p. 42, above), one of the three must have 
been St. Teresa's father.] 

2 [While there are too many similarities between the writings of St. Teresa and St. 
John of the Cross for more than a very .small proportion of them to be referred to, I 
cannot forbear quoting here the latter*s welljoiown maxim: "live in this world 
as though there were an it but God and thy soul, so* that thy heart may be detained 
by naught that is human*' (St. John of the Cross, III, 256).] 


sins and failings which we see in others, for we all have a zeal 
for virtue and so we must learn to understand ourselves and walk 
warily. The devil tells us that this distress arises solely from our 
desire that God should not be offended and from our concern 
for His honour and then we immediately try to set matters right. 
This makes us so excited that it prevents us from praying, and 
the greatest harm of all is that we think this to be a virtue, and 
a sign of perfection and of great zeal for God. I am not referring 
to the distress caused by public offences in a religious congrega- 
tion, if they become habitual, or of wrongs done to the Church, 
such as heresies, through which, as we see, so many souls are lost; 
for distress caused by these is right, and, being right, causes us 
no excitement. Safety, then, for the soul that practises prayer 
will consist in its ceasing to be anxious about anything and any- 
body, and in its watching itself and pleasing God. This is most 
important. If I were to describe the mistakes I have seen people 
make because they trusted in their good intentions ! 

Let us strive, then, always to look at the virtues and the good 
qualities which we find in others, and to keep our own grievous 
sins before our eyes so that we may be blind to their defects. 
This is a course of action which, though we may not become 
perfect in it all at once, will help us to acquire one great virtue 
namely, to consider all others better than ourselves. In this way 
we shall begin to profit, by God's help (which is always necessary, 
and, when it fails, our own efforts are useless), and we must beg 
Him to give us this virtue, which, if we exert our own efforts, 
He will deny to none. This counsel must also be remembered 
by those who use their intellects a great deal and from one 
subject can extract many ideas and conceptions. To those who 
cannot do this and I used to be one there is no need to 
offer any counsel, save that they must have patience until the 
Lord gives them occupation and enlightenment, for of them- 
selves they can do so little that their intellect hinders rather 
than helps them. 

Returning, then, to those who can make use of their reasoning 
powers, I advise them not to spend all their time in doing so; 
their method of prayer is most meritorious, but, enjoying it as 
they do, they fail to realize that they ought to have a kind of 
Sunday that is to say, a period of rest from their labour. To stop 
working, they think, would be a loss of time, whereas my view 
is that this loss is a great gain; let them imagine themselves, as 
I have suggested, in the presence of Christ, and let them remain 
in converse with Him, and delighting in Him, without wearying 
their minds or fatiguing themselves by composing speeches to 
Him, but laying their needs before Him and acknowledging how 


right He is not to allow us to be in His presence. There is a time 
for one thing and a time for another; were there not, the soul 
would grow tired of always eating the same food. These foods are 
very pleasant and wholesome; and, if the palate is accustomed 
to their taste, they provide great sustenance for the life of the 
soul, and bring it many other benefits. 

I will explain myself further, for these matters concerning 
prayer are difficult, and, if no director is available, very hard 
to understand. It is for this reason that, though I should like 
to write more briefly, and though merely to touch upon these 
matters concerning prayer would suffice for the keen intellect 
of him who commanded me to write of them, my own stupidity 
prevents me from describing and explaining in a few words a 
matter which it is so important to expound thoroughly. Having 
gone through so much myself, I am sorry for those who begin 
with books alone, for it is extraordinary what a difference there 
is between understanding a thing and knowing it by experience. 
Returning, then, to what I was saying, we begin to meditate 
upon a scene of the Passion let us say upon the binding of the 
Lord to the Column. The mind sets to work to seek out the 
reasons which are to be found for the great afflictions and distress 
which His Majesty must have suffered when He was alone there. 
It also meditates on the many other lessons which, if it is in- 
dustrious, or well stored with learning, this mystery can teach it. 
'This method should be the beginning, the middle and the end 
of prayer for all of us : it is a most excellent and safe road until 
the Lord leads us to other methods, which are supernatural. 

I say "for all of us," but there will be many souls who derive 
greater benefits from other meditations than from that of the 
Sacred Passion. For, just as there are many mansions in Heaven, 
so there are many roads to them. Some people derive benefit 
from imagining themselves in hell; others, whom it distresses to 
think of hell, from imagining themselves in Heaven. Others 
meditate upon death. Some, who are tender-hearted, get exhausted 
if they keep thinking about the Passion, but they derive great 
comfort and benefit from considering the power and greatness 
of God in the creatures, and the love that He showed us, which 
is pictured in all things. This is an admirable procedure, provided 
one does not fail to meditate often upon the Passion and the 
life of Christ, which are, and have always been, the source of 
everything that is good. 

The beginner needs counsel to help him ascertain what benefits 
him most. To this end a director is very necessary; but he must 
be a man of experience, or he will tnake a great many mistakes 
and lead souls along without understanding them or without 


allowing them to learn to understand themselves, for the soul, 
knowing that it is a great merit to be subject to its director, dares 
not do other than what he commands it. I have come across 
souls so constrained and afflicted because of the inexperience of 
their director that I have been really sorry for them. And I 
have found some who had no idea how to act for themselves; 
for directors who cannot understand spirituality afflict their 
penitents both in soul and in body and prevent them from 
making progress. One person who spoke to me about this had 
been kept in bondage by her director for eight years; he would 
not allow her to aim at anything but self-knowledge, yet the Lord 
was already granting her the Prayer of Quiet, so she was suffering 
great trials. 

At the same time, this matter of self-knowledge must never be 
neglected. No soul on this road is such a giant that it does not 
often need to become a child at the breast again. (This must 
never be forgotten: I may repeat it again and again, for it is of 
great importance.) For there is no state of prayer, however 
sublime, in which it is not necessary often to go back to the 
beginning. And self-knowledge with regard to sin is the bread 
which must be eaten with food of every kind, however dainty it 
may be, on this road of prayer: without this bread we could not 
eat our food at all. But bread must be taken in moderate pro- 
portions. When a soul finds itself exhausted and realizes clearly 
that it has no goodness of its own, when it feels ashamed in the 
presence of so great a King and sees how little it is paying of all 
that it owes Him, what need is there for it to waste its time on 
learning to know itself? It will be wiser to go on to other matters 
which the Lord sets before it, and we are not doing right if we 
neglect such things, for His Majesty knows better than we what 
kind of food is good for us. 

It is of great importance, then, that the director should be a 
prudent man of sound understanding, I mean and also an 
experienced one: if he is a learned man as well, that is a very 
great advantage. But if all these three qualities cannot be found 
in the same man, the first two are the more important, for it is 
always possible to find learned men to consult when necessary. 
I mean that learning is of little benefit to beginners, except in 
men of prayer. I do not mean that beginners should have no 
communication with learned men, for I should prefer spirituality 
to be unaccompanied by prayer than not to be founded 
upon the truth. Learning is a great thing, for it teaches those 
of us who have little knowledge, and gives us light, so that, when 
we are faced with the truth of Holy Scripture, we act as we 
should. From foolish devotions may God deliver us! 


I want to explain myself further, for I seem to be getting 
involved in a great many subjects. I have always had this failing 
that I cannot explain myself, as I have said, except at the cost 
of many words. A nun begins to practise prayer: if her director 
is a simpleton and gets the idea into his head, he will give her to 
understand that it is better for her to obey him than her superior, 
and he will do this without any evil intention, thinking he is 
right. Indeed, if he is not a religious, it will probably seem right to 
him. If he is dealing with a married woman, he will tell her it is 
better for her to be engaged in prayer when she has work to do in 
her home, although this may displease her husband: he cannot 
advise her about arranging her time and work so that everything 
is done as true Christianity demands. Not being enlightened 
himself, he cannot enlighten others, even if he tries. And although 
learning may not seem necessary for this, my opinion has always 
been, and always will be, that every Christian should try to 
consult some learned person, if he can, and the more learned 
this person, the better. Those who walk in the way of prayer 
have the greater need of learning; and the more spiritual they 
are, the greater is their need. 

Let us not make the mistake of saying that learned men who 
do not practise prayer are not suitable directors for those who do. 
I have consulted many such; and for some years past, feeling a 
greater need of them, I have sought them out more. I have 
always got on well with them; for, though some of them have no 
experience, they are not averse from spirituality, nor are they 
ignorant of its nature, for they study Holy Scripture, where the 
truth about it can always be found. I believe myself that, if a 
person who practises prayer consults learned men, the devil 
will not deceive him with illusions except by his own desire; 
for I think devils are very much afraid of learned men who are 
, humble and virtuous, knowing that they will find them out and 
defeat them. 

I have said this because some people think that learnedjmen, 
if they are not spiritual, are unsuitable for those who practise 
prayer. I have already said that a spiritual director is necessary, 
but if he has no learning it is a great inconvenience. It will help 
us very much to consult learned men, provided they are virtuous ; 
even if they are not spiritual they will do us good and God will 
show them what they should teach and may even make them 
spiritual so that they may be of service to us. I do not say this 
without proof and I have had experience of quite a number. 1 
Anyone, I repeat, who surrenders his soul to a single director, 
and is subject to him alone, will be making a great mistake, if he 
1 [Z&: "of more than two" but the expression is a figurative one.] 


is a religious, and has to be subject to his own superior, in not 
obtaining a director of this kind. For the director may be lacking 
in all the three things, and that will be no light cross for the 
penitent to bear without voluntarily submitting his understanding 
to one whose understanding is not good. For myself, I have never 
been able to bring myself to do this, nor do I think it right. If 
such a person be in the world, let him praise God that he is able 
to choose the director to whom he is to be subject and let him not 
give up such righteous freedom; let him rather remain without 
a director until he finds the right one, for the Lord will give him 
one if his life is founded upon humility and he has the desire to 
succeed. I praise God greatly, and we women, and those who are 
not learned, ought always to give Him infinite thanks, that there 
are persons who with such great labour have attained to the truth 
of which we ignorant people know nothing. 

I am often amazed that learned men, and religious in particular, 
will give me the benefit of what they have gained with so much 
labour, and at no cost to myself save the labour of asking for it. 
And to think that there may be people who have no desire to 
reap such benefits ! God forbid it be so] I see these learned fathers 
bearing the trials of the religious life, which are grievous ones 
its penances, its poor food and its obligation to obey: really, I am 
sometimes downright ashamed to think of it. And then, the scant 
sleep they get: nothing but trials, nothing but crosses! I think 
it would be very wrong for anyone, through his own fault, to 
forfeit the benefits of such a life as that. It may be that some of us 
who are free from these trials who are pampered, as they say 
and live just as we like, think ourselves superior to those who 
undergo them, merely because we practise a little more prayer 
than they. 

Blessed be Thou, Lord., Who hast made me so incompetent 
and unprofitable ! Most heartily do I praise Thee because Thou 
quickenest so many to quicken us ! We should pray most regularly 
for those who give us light. What would become of us without 
them amid these great storms which the Church now ha^ to bear? 
If some of them have been wicked, the good will shine the more. 
May it please the Lord to keep them in His hand and help them 
to help us. Amen. 

I have wandered far from the aim with which I began, but 
for those who are beginners it is all to the point, and it will help 
them, as they set out upon so high a journey, to keep their feet 
planted upon the true road. Returning to what I was saying- 
the meditation upon Christ bound to the Column it is well to 
reflect for a time and to think of the pains which He bore there, 
why He bore them, Who He is that bore them and with wjhat love 


He suffered them. But we must not always tire ourselves by going 
in search of such ideas ; we must sometimes remain by His side 
with our minds hushed in silence. If we can, we should occupy 
ourselves in looking upon Him Who is looking at us; keep Him 
company; talk with Him; pray to Him; humble ourselves before 
Him; have our delight in Him; and remember that He never 
deserved to be there. Anyone who can do this, though he may be 
but a beginner in prayer, will derive great benefit from it, for this 
kind of prayer brings many benefits: at least, so my soul has 
found. I do not know whether I have succeeded in what I have 
tried to say; but Your Reverence will know. May the Lord grant 
me always to succeed in pleasing Him. Amen. 


Begins to describe the second degree of prayer > in which the Lord grants the 
soul experience of more special consolations. This description is made 
in order to explain the supernatural character of these consolations. 
It should be most carefully noted. 

Having now spoken of the labour and manual effort with 
which this garden is watered when one draws water from the well, 
let us now speak of the second way of drawing it which is ordained 
by the Lord of the garden. By using a device of windlass and 
buckets the gardener draws more water with less labour and is 
able to take some rest instead of being continually at work. It is 
this method, applied to the prayer called the Prayer of Quiet, 
that; I now wish to describe. 

This state, in which the soul begins to recollect itself, borders on 
the supernatural, to which it could in no way attain by its own 
exertions. True, it sometimes seems to have been wearied by its 
work at the windlass its labouring with the understanding 
and its filling of the buckets; but in this state the water is higher 
and thus much less labour is required than for the drawing of it 
from the well. I mean that the water is nearer to it, for grace 
reveals itself to the soul more clearly. This state is a recollecting 
of the faculties within the soul, so that its fruition of that con- 
tentment may be of greater delight. But the faculties are not lost, 
nor do they sleep. The will alone is occupied, in such a way that, 
without knowing how, it becomes captive. It allows itself to be 
imprisoned by God, as one who well knows itself to be the captive 
of Him Whom it loves. Oh, my Jesus and Lord, how much Thy 
love now means to us ! It binds our own love so straitiy that 


at that moment it leaves us no freedom to love anything but 

The other two faculties help the will so that it may become 
more and more capable of enjoying so great a blessing, though 
sometimes it comes about that, even when the will is in union, they 
hinder it exceedingly. When that happens it should take no 
notice of them but remain in its fruition and quiet; for, if it tries to 
recollect them, both it and they will suffer. At such a time they are 
like doves which are not pleased with the food given them by the 
owner of the dovecot, without their having worked for it, and go 
in search of food elsewhere, but are so unsuccessful that they re- 
turn. Just so these faculties come and go, to see if the will will give 
them some part of what it is enjoying. If this be the Lord's 
pleasure, it throws them food and they stop; if not, they return 
to their search. They must reflect that they are benefiting the will ; 
or sometimes the memory or the imagination may do it harm by 
trying to present it with a picture of what it is enjoying. The will, 
then, must be careful in its dealings with them, as I shall explain. 

Everything that now takes place brings the greatest consolation, 
and so little labour is involved that, even if prayer continues for 
a long time, it never becomes wearisome. For the understanding 
is now working very gradually and is drawing very much more 
water than it drew from the well. The tears which God bestows 
here flow joyfully; though the soul is conscious of them, it does 
nothing to induce them. 

This water of great blessings and favours which the Lord gives 
in this state makes the virtues grow much more, beyond all com- 
parison, than in the previous one; for the soul is already rising 
from its miserable condition and gaining some slight foreknowledge 
of the joys of glory. This, I believe, makes the virtues grow and 
also brings them nearer to that true Virtue from Whom all virtues 
spring namely, God. For His Majesty begins to communicate 
Himself to this soul and wishes it to be conscious of the method 
of His communication. As soon as it arrives at this state, it begins 
to lose its covetousness for the things of earth. And small merit to 
it, for it sees clearly that on earth it cannot have a moment of this 
joy; that there are no riches, or dominions, or honours, or delights 
which suffice to give it such satisfaction even for the twinkling 
of an eye; for this is true joy, and* the soul realizes that itds this 
which gives genuine satisfaction. Those of us who are on earth, it 
seems to me, rarely understand where this satisfaction lies. It 
comes and goes. First it is with us ; then it-leaves us, and we find 
that it is all gone, and we cannot get it back again, having no idea 
how to do so. For even if we wear ourselves to pieces with penances 
and prayers and all kinds of other things, we can acquire but little 


if the Lord is not pleased to bestow it. God, of His greatness, 
desires the soul to realize that His Majesty is so near it that it 
need not send Him messengers, 1 but may speak with Him itself; 
nor need it cry aloud, because He is so near it that it has only to 
move its lips and He will understand it. 

It seems beside the point to say this, as we know that God 
always understands us and is always with us. There is no possible 
doubt that this is so; but this Emperor and Lord of ours desires 
us now to realize that He understands us, and what is accom- 
plished by His presence, and that He is about to begin a special 
work in the soul through the great satisfaction, both inward and 
outward, that He gives it, and through the difference which there 
is, as I have said, between this particular delight and contentment 
and others which we experience on earth, for He seems to be filling 
the void in our souls that we have caused by our sins. This satis- 
faction resides in the most intimate part of the soul, and the soul 
cannot tell whence or how it has come to it; often it knows neither 
what to do, nor to wish, nor to ask. It seems to find everything 
at once, yet not to know what it has found: I do not myself 
know how to explain this. For many purposes it is necessary to be 
learned ; and it would be very useful to have some learning here, in 
order to explain what is meaht by general or particular help (for 
there are many who do not know this) and how it is now the Lord's 
will that the soul should see this particular help (as they say) with 
its own eyes; and learning would also serve to explain many other 
things about which mistakes may be made. However, as what I 
write is to be seen by persons who will know if I am wrong, I am 
going on without worrying about it. I know I have no need to 
worry from the point of 'view either of learning or of spirituality, 
as this is going into the possession of those who will be able to 
judge it and will cut out anything which may be amiss. 

I should like, then, to explain this, because it is a fundamental 
matter, and, when the Lord begins to grant these favours, the soul 
itself does not understand them, or know what it ought to do. 
If God leads it, as He led me, by the way of fear, and there is no 
one who understands it, its trial will be a heavy one; and it will 
be very glad to read a description of itself which will show clearly 
that it is travelling on the right road. And it will be a great 
blessing for it to know what it has to do in order to continue to 
make progress in any of these states : I myself, through not knowing 
what to do, have suffered much and lost a great deal of time. 
I am very sorry for souls who reach this state and find themselves 
alone; for, although I have read many spiritual books which 
touch upon the matter, they explain very little; and if the soul 

1 [Cf. St. John of the Cross: Spiritual Confab, Stanza VT.] 


has not had a great deal of practice in prayer it will have as much 
as it can do to understand its own case, however much the books 
may explain. 

I wish very much that the Lord would help me to set forth 
the effects which these things produce in the soul and which 
are already verging on the supernatural, so that it may be known 
by the effects which they produce whether or no they proceed 
from the Spirit of God. Known, I mean, to the extent to which 
it is possible to know things on earth: it is always well that we 
should act with fear and caution, for, even if these things come 
from God, the devil may sometimes be able to transform himself 
into an angel of light. 1 If the soul has not had a great deal of 
experience it will not realize this, and so much experience is 
necessary that, in order to understand it, one must have reached 
the very summit of prayer. The little time I have makes it none 
too easy for me to explain this, for which reason it is necessary 
that His Majesty should make the matter clear, for I have my 
work to do in the community and many other occupations (being 
now in a recently founded house, as will be seen later 2 ) and so I 
can never settle down to what I write but have to do a little at a 
time. I wish I had more time, for, when the Lord gives inspiration, 
one can write better and more easily. I seem to be like one work- 
ing with a pattern before her and copying it with her needle* I 
can perform my task, but if inspiration is wanting I can no more 
put my words together properly than if I were writing gibberish, 
as one might say, however many years I may have spent in prayer. 
And so I think it is a very great advantage to be immersed in 
prayer when I am writing. I realize clearly that it is not I who am 
saying this; for I am not putting it together with my own under- 
standing and afterwards I cannot tell how I have managed to 
say it at all. This often happens to me. 

Let us now return to our garden, or orchard, and see how these 
trees begin to take new life before putting forth flowers and 
afterwards giving fruit, and the flowers carnations and so forth 3 - 
begin to give out their fragrance. I am pleased with this comparison, 
for often, when I was a beginner (and may the Lord grant that I 
have in fact even now begun to serve His Majesty- but I mean 
a beginner by comparison with what I shall say about my life here- 
after), it used to give me great delight to think of my soul as a 
garden and of the Lord as walking in it. I would beg Him to 
increase the fragrance of the little buds of virtue which seemed to 

1 [ 2 Corinthians xi, 14]. 

* I.e., St. Joseph's, Avila. 

8 [Lit. , " the flowers and carnations." No doubt carnations, with their strong 
fragrance, were flowers which particularly appealed to St. Teresa, she often lays 
special stress on some- such thing when it catches her imagination.] 


be beginning to appear, and to keep them alive so that they might 
bloom to His glory for I wanted nothing for myself and I 
would ask Him to prune away any of them He wished to, for I 
knew that the plants would be all the better if He did. I speak of 
pruning, for there come times when the soul feels like anything 
but a garden : everything seems dry to it and no water comes to 
refresh it, and one would think there had never been any kind of 
virtue in it at all. The soul suffers many trials, for the Lord 
wants the poor gardener to think that all the trouble he has taken 
in watering the garden and keeping it alive is lost. Then is the 
proper time for weeding and rooting out the smaller plants, and 
this must be done, however small they may be, if they are useless; 
for we know that no efforts of ours are availing if God with- 
holds from us the water of grace, and we must despise ourselves as 
nothing and as less than nothing. By doing this we can gain great 
humility and then the flowers will begin to grow afresh. 

O my Lord and my Good! I cannot say this without tears 
and great delight of soul that Thou, Lord, shouldst wish to be 
with us, and art with us, in the Sacrament. We may believe that 
this is so, in very truth, for so it is, and with the utmost truth we 
may make this comparison; and if our faults do not impede us 
we may rejoice in Thee and Thou wilt take Thy delight in us, 
since Thou sayest that Thy delight is to be with the children of 
men. 1 O my Lord! What is this? Whenever I hear these words 
they are a great comfort to me, as they were even when I had 
gone far astray. Is it possible, Lord, that there can be a soul which 
reaches a state in which Thou dost grant it such graces and favours 
and can realize that Thou takest Thy delight in it, and yet 
offends Thee again after Thou hast shown it so many favours 
and such signal marks of love that it cannot doubt them since it 
sees Thy work so clearly? Yes, there is indeed such a soul there 
is myself. And I have done this not once, but often. May it please 
Thy goodness, Lord, that I may be alone in my ingratitude, that 
I may be the only one to have committed so great a wrong and 
been so excessively ungrateful. Yet even from me some good has 
been brought forth by Thine infinite goodness, and, the greater 
have been my sins, the more has the great blessing of Thy mercies 
shone forth in me. How many reasons have I for singing of them 
for ever! I beseech Thee, my God, that it may be so : may I sing 
of them, and that without end, since Thou -hast seen good to work 
such exceeding great mercies in me that they amaze those who 
behold them, while as for me, I am drawn out of myself by them 
continually, that I may be the better able to sing Thy praise. 
For, so long as I am in myself, my Lord, and without Thee, I can 

1 Proverbs viii, 31. 


do nothing but be cut off like the flowers in this garden, 1 and this 
miserable earth will become a dunghill again as before. Permit 
it not, Lord. Let it not be Thy will that a soul which Thou hast 
purchased with so many trials should be lost, when Thou hast 
so often redeemed it anew and hast snatched it from the teeth 
of the horrible dragon. 

Your Reverence must forgive me for wandering from my 
subject: as I am speaking with a purpose in my mind you must not 
be surprised. I am writing what comes to my soul; and at times 
when, as I write, the greatness of the debt I owe Him rises up 
before me, it is only by a supreme effort that I can refrain from 
going on to sing praises to God. And I think Your Reverence 
will not be displeased by it, because I believe we can both sing the 
same song, though in a different way; for my debt to God is much 
the greater, since He has forgiven me more, as Your Reverence 


Continues speaking of the same subject and gives certain counsels as to how 
the soul must behave in this Prayer of Quiet. Tells how there are 
many souls who attain to this prayer and few who pass beyond it. 
The things touched herein are very necessary and profitable. 

Let us now return to our subject. This quiet and recollected- 
ness in the soul makes itself felt largely through the satisfaction 
and peace which it brings to it, together with a very great joy and 
repose of the faculties and a most sweet delight. As the soul has 
never gone beyond this stage, it thinks there is no more left for it to 
desire and, like Saint Peter, it wishes that it could make its abode 
here. 2 It dares not move or stir, for it thinks that if it does so this 
blessing may slip from its grasp: sometimes it would like to be 
unable even to breathe. The poor creature does not realize 
that, having been unable to do anything of itself to acquire that 
blessing, it will be still less able to keep it longer than the time 
for which the Lord is pleased that it shall possess it. I have already 
said that, in this first state of recollection and quiet, the faculties of 
the soul do not fail; but the soul has such satisfaction in God that, 
although the other two faculties may be distracted, yet, since the 
will is in 1 union with God for as long as the recollection lasts, its 

1 [The verb sorter, here translated "cut off", is rendered "prune", "prune away" 
just above (p. 87). The sense is different here but the author seems to have the 
earlier passage in mind.] 

* St. Matthew xvii, 4. 

XV] LIFE 89 

quiet and repose are not lost, but the will gradually brings the 
understanding and memory back to a state of recollection again. 
For, although the will is not yet completely absorbed, it is so well 
occupied, without knowing how, that, whatever the efforts made 
by the understanding and memory, they cannot deprive it of its 
contentment and rejoicing: indeed, without any labour on its 
part, it helps to prevent this little spark of love for God from 
being quenched. 

May His Majesty give me grace to explain this clearly, for 
there are many, many souls that reach this state and few that 
pass beyond it, and I do not know who is to blame for this. 
Most certainly it is not God; Tor, since His Majesty grants us 
the favour of advancing to this point, I do not believe that, 
unless there are faults on our part, He will fail to grant us many 
more favours. It is very important that the soul which arrives 
thus far should recognize the great dignity of its state and the 
greatness of the favours which the Lord has granted it, and 
how there is good reason why it should not belong to the earth, 
since, unless its own faults impede it, His goodness seems to be 
making it a citizen of Heaven. Alas for such a soul if it turns 
back ! If it does so, I think it will begin to go downhill, as I 
should have done had not the Lord's mercy saved me. For, 
as a rule, I believe, it can be due only to grave faults : it is im- 
possible to forfeit so great a blessing save through gross blindness 
caused by much. evil. 

And so, for love of the Lord, I beg the souls whom His Majesty 
has granted so great a favour as to attain to this state to learn 
to know themselves, and to hold themselves, with a humble and 
a holy presumption, in high esteem, so that they shall not return 
to the flesh-pots of Egypt. And if, through their weakness and 
wickedness and their miserable and wretched nature, they fall, 
as I did, let them ever bear in mind what a blessing they have 
lost, and preserve their misgivings and walk fearfully, as they 
have good reason to do, for unless they return to prayer they 
will go from bad to worse. I should call anything a real fall 
which made us hate the road that had led us to so great a blessing. 
In talking to these souls I do not say that they will not offend 
God and fall into sin; anyone who has begun to receive these 
favours would be right in guarding himself carefully against 
falling; for we are miserable sinners. What I strongly advise 
them to do is not to give up prayer, for prayer will enlighten them 
as to what they are doing, and the Lord will grant them repen- 
tance and strength to rise again. They must believe, and keep 
on believing, that if they cease from prayer they are running 
(or so I think) into danger. I am not sure if I understand what 


I am saying, because, as I have said, I am judging from my 
own experience. 

This prayer, then, is a little spark of true love for the Lord 
which He begins to enkindle in the soul, and His will is that it 
should come to understand the nature of this love with its atten- 
dant joy. This quiet and recollection this little spark if it 
proceeds from the Spirit of God and is not a pleasure bestowed 
on us by the devil or sought by ourselves, is not a thing that can 
be acquired, as anyone who has experience of it must perforce 
realize immediately, but this nature of ours is so eager for delec- 
table experiences that it tries to get all it can. Soon, however, 
it becomes very cold; for, hard as we may try to make the fire 
burn in order to obtain this pleasure, we seem only to be throwing 
water on it to quench it. This little spark, then, planted within 
us by God, small though it is, makes a loud noise; and if we do 
not quench it through some fault of our own, it is this that 
begins to kindle the great fire which (as I shall say in due course) 
sends forth the flames of that most ardent love of God with which 
His Majesty endows the souls of the perfect. 

This spark is given to the soul by God as a sign or pledge that He 
is already choosing it for great things if it will prepare itself to 
receive them. It is a great gift, much greater than I can say. 
I am very sorry for this, for, as I have said, I know many souls 
who attain thus far; and I know, too, that those who go farther, 
as they ought to do, are so few that I am ashamed to confess it. 
I do not mean that they are really few, for there must be a great 
many of them, since God does not uphold us without a purpose. 
I ani merely telling what I have seen. I should like very much 
to advise such persons to be careful not to hide their talent, for 
it would seem that God is pleased to choose them to the advantage 
of many, especially in these times when He needs His friends 
to be strong so that they may uphold the weak. Let those who 
recognize that they themselves have this grace look upon them- 
selves as His friends if they can fulfil the obligations which even 
the world demands of faithful friendship. Otherwise, as I have 
just said, let them fear and tremble lest they be doing some harm 
to themselves and please God it be to themselves alone! 

What the soul has to do at these seasons of quiet is merely to 
go softly- and make no noise. By noise, I mean going about 
with the understanding in search of many words and reflections 
with which to give thanks for this benefit and piling up its sins 
and imperfections so as to make itself realize that it does not 
deserve it. It is now that all this movement takes place: the 
understanding brings forward its representations and the ngiemory 
becomes active and sometimes I myself find these faculties really 

XV] LIFE 91 

wearisome, for, weak though my memory is, I cannot subdue 
it. The will must be calm and discreet and realize that we 
cannot treat effectively with God by the might of our own 
efforts and that these are like great logs of wood being heaped 
up indiscriminately so that they will quench this spark. Let it 
recognize this and with all humility say: "Lord, what can I 
do here? What has the servant to do with her Lord? What has 
earth to do with Heaven?" Or let it utter any words of love 
which come to its mind, with the firm and sure knowledge that 
what it is saying is the truth; and let it take no notice of the 
understanding, which is merely making itself a nuisance. And 
if the will wishes to communicate its joy to the understanding, 
or strives to lead it into recollection (as will often happen in this 
union of the will and state of tranquillity), and the understanding 
is very much disturbed, it will do better to leave it alone than 
to run after it. Let it (the will, I mean) continue in the fruition 
of that favour, and be as recollected as the wise little bee, for if 
no bees entered the hive and they all went about trying to bring 
each other in, there would not be much chance of their making 
any honey. 

The soul will lose a great deal if it is not careful about this, 
especially if it has a lively understanding, with the result that, 
when it begins to hold discourse with itself and think out reflec- 
tions, it will soon begin to fancy it is doing something worth 
while if its discourses and reflections are at all clever. All that 
the reason has to do in this state is to understand that there is 
no reason, save His goodness alone, why God should grant us 
so great a favour, and to realize that we are very near Hun, and 
to beg favours of His Majesty, and to pray to Him for the Church 
and for those who have been commended to us and for the souls 
in purgatory not, however, with any noise of words, though 
with a hearty desire that He may hear us. This is a prayer that 
comprises a great deal and achieves more than any amount of 
meditation on the part of the understanding. Let the will, in 
order to quicken its love, arouse within itself certain reasons 
which reason itself will picture -to it when it sees itself in so much 
better a state. Let it make certain acts of love, too, concerning 
what it will do for Him to Whom it owes so much, without 
allowing the understanding to make any noise, as I have said, 
in its search for these clever reflections. A few little straws laid 
down with humility (and they will be less than straws if it is 
we who lay them down) are more to the point here, and of 
more use for kindling the fire, than any amount of wood that 
i$, of the most learned reasoning which, in our opinion, will 
put it out in a moment. This will be good advice for the learned 


men who are commanding me to write, for, by the goodness of 
God, all of them will reach this state, and it may be they will 
spend their time in making applications of verses from Scripture; 
but, although they will have no difficulty in making good use 
of their learning both before and after prayer, they will have 
little need for it, in my view, during their actual periods of prayer, 
when it will only make their will lukewarm; for at those times 
the understanding, through being so near the light, sees with 
the greatest clearness, so that even I, though the sort of person 
I am, seem to be quite different. 

Thus, when in this state of Quiet, I, who understand hardly 
anything that I recite in Latin, particularly in the Psalter, have 
not only been able to understand the text as though it were in 
Spanish but have even found to my delight that I can penetrate 
the meaning of the Spanish. Let us leave out of account occasions 
when these learned men have to preach or teach, for then it 
will be well for them to make use of their learning, so as to 
help poor ignorant creatures like myself, for charity is a great 
thing, and so is a constant care for souls, when undertaken 
simply and purely for the sake of God. In these periods of Quiet, 
then, let the soul repose in its rest; let them put their learning 
aside; the time will come when they will use it in the Lord's 
service and will esteem it so much that they would not have 
failed to acquire it for all the treasures imaginable, simply 
because they can serve His Majesty with it and for this purpose 
find it a great help. But in the sight of Infinite Wisdom, believe 
me, there is more value in a little study of humility and in a 
single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world. So in 
this state there is no room for argument but only for a plain 
recognition of what we are, a presenting of ourselves in our 
simplicity before God, Whose will is that the soul should become 
a fool, as in truth it is in His sight, for it is due to His Majesty's 
great humility, 1 we being what we are, that He suffers it to be 
near Him. 

The understanding is also active now and gives thanks in set 
terms; but the will, in its tranquillity, is like the publican and 
dares not lift up its eyes, yet perhaps makes a better thanks- 
giving than the understanding can even when it has exhausted 
all its rhetoric. In short, mental prayer must not be completely 
given up, nor yet must vocal prayer, if we ever wish to turn 
to it and are able to do so; for, if the state of Quiet is intense, 
it becomes difficult to speak except with great distress. In my 

1 Without altering the word "humility", P. Bdnez wrote underneath it, in the 
original manuscript, "humanity". This emendation [if it was meant for one] has 
been adopted by none of the editions. 

XV] LIFE 93 

own opinion, it is possible to tell if this state comes from the 
Spirit of God or if, starting from devotion given us by God, 
we have attained to it by our own efforts. In the latter case, as 
I have said, we try of our own accord to pass on to this quiet 
of the will, and nothing comes of it; everything is quickly over 
and we are left in a state of aridity. If it comes from the devil, 
I think a practised soul will realize this, for it leaves behind it 
disquiet and very little humility and does little to prepare the 
soul for the effects produced by such prayer when it comes from 
God. It leaves neither light in the understanding nor steadfast- 
ness in the will. 1 

The devil, in such a case, can do little or no harm if the" 
soul directs the delight and sweetness which it now feels towards 
God and fixes its thoughts and desires upon Him, as it has already 
been advised to do. He can gain nothing; in fact, by Divine 
permission, the very delight which he causes in the soul will 
contribute to his frustration. For this delight will help the soul: 
thinking it to be of God, it will often come to its prayer with a 
desire for Him; and if it is a humble soul, and not curious or 
eager for joys, even for spiritual joys, but attached to the Gross, 
it will pay little attention to pleasure given by the devil, but 
will be unable to disregard that which comes from the Spirit 
of God, for this it will hold in high esteem. When the devil, 
being altogether a liar, sends the soul any pleasure or delight, 
and sees that this is causing it to humble itself (and it should 
try to be humble in all that concerns prayer and consolations), 
he will often see how he has been frustrated and refrain from 
trying again. For this and for many reasons, in writing of the 
first kind of prayer, and of the first water, I pointed out that 
it is most important for souls, when they begin to practise prayer, 
to start by detaching themselves from every kind of pleasure, 
and to enter upon their prayer with one sole determination, to 
help Christ bear His Cross. Anxious, like good knights, to serve 
their King without pay, since they are quite sure of their final 
reward, they will keep their eyes fixed upon the true and ever- 
lasting kingdom to which we are striving to attain. 

It is a very great thing always to bear this in mind, especially 
at first; later, we realize it so clearly that we need to forget it, 
so that we may live out our lives, rather than to try to recall 
to our memory how brief is the duration of everything, and how 

1 The original has "truth" (verdad), not "will" (voluntod). [P. Silverio, while 
agreeing that vohaitad is more logical, respects the clear reading of the autograph and 
gives verdad\ but the context, I think, makes it quite clear that "will** is meant, 
and the two words, in the Spanish, are sufficiently alike to be confused by a writer 
as often inaccurate as St. Teresa. Lewis, p. 122, n., cites three Spanish commentators 
who have adopted volwtad) though he himself translates " truth ".] 


othing is of any value, and how such earthly rest as we have 
lust be reckoned as no rest at all. This seems to be a very 
)w ideal, and so indeed it is, and those who have reached a 
lore advanced state, and a greater degree of perfection, would 
onsider it a reproach and be ashamed if they thought that the 
sason they were renouncing the good things of this world was 
ecause these must pass away: even were such things everlasting, 
ley would rejoice to give them up for God. The nearer are 
aese souls to perfection, the greater would be their joy, and the 
reater, too, would it be if these earthly blessings lasted longer. 

In souls like these love is already highly developed and it is 
Dve which works in them. But for beginners this other considera- 
Lon is of the greatest importance, and they must not look upon 
. as a low ideal, for the blessing that it brings is a great one, 
nd for this reason I strongly commend it to them: even those 
/ho have reached great heights of prayer will find it necessary, 
/hen from time to time God is pleased to" prove them and His 
/Iajesty w seems to have forsaken them. For, as I have already 
aid and I should not like this to be forgotten in this life of 
urs the soul does not grow in the way the body does, though 
/e speak as if it did, and growth does in fact occur. But whereas 

child, after attaining to the full stature of a man, does not 
iminish in size so that his body becomes small again, in spiritual 
latters the Lord is pleased that such diminution should take 
lace at least, according to my own observation, for I have 
o other means of knowing. This must be in order to humble 
s for our greater good, and so that we may not grow careless 
tfiile we are in this exile; for, the higher a person has climbed, 
le more fearful he should be and the less he should trust him- 
slf. There come times when those whose will is so completely 
ibjected to the will of God that they would let themselves be 
Drtured rather than be guilty of one imperfection and die a 
lousand deaths rather than commit sins, find it necessary, if 
icy are to be free from offending God, when they see them- 
ilves assaulted by temptations and persecutions, to make use 
E" the primary weapons that is, of prayer and thus to recall 

> themselves that everything comes to an end, that there is a 
eaven and a hell, and other truths of the same kind. 

Returning now to what I was saying, the great foundation 
hich we must lay, if we are to be delivered from the snares 
id pleasures sent by the devil, is the initial determination not 

> desire these pleasures, but to walk from the first in the way 
* the Cross. For the Lord Himself showed us this way of per- 
ction when He said: "Take up thy cross and follow Me." 1 

1 St. Matthew xvi, 124 

XV] L IF fi 95 

He is our Pattern; and those who follow His counsels with the 
sole aim of pleasing Him have nothing to fear. 

They will know, by the improvement which they discern in 
themselves, that this is not the work of the devil. For, even 
though they keep falling, there is one sign that the Lord has 
been with them namely, the speed with which they rise again. 
There are also other signs, which I shall now describe. When 
the Spirit of God is at work, there is no need to go about looking 
for ways of inducing humility and confusion; for the Lord 
Himself reveals these to us in a very different manner from any 
which we can find by means of our puny reflections, which are 
nothing by comparison with a true humility proceeding from 
the light given us in this way by the Lord. This produces a 
confusion which quite overwhelms us. The bestowal upon us of 
this knowledge by God so that we may learn that we ourselves 
have nothing good is a well-known experience, and the greater 
are the favours we receive from Him, the better we learn it. 
He gives us a burning desire to make progress in prayer, and 
not to abandon it, however great the trials it may bring us. We 
offer ourselves wholly to Him and we experience a security 
combined with humility and fear with respect to our salvation. 
This casts out from the soul all servile fear and implants in it a 
very much maturer fear which springs from faith. We realize 
that there is beginning to develop within us a love of God entirely 
devoid of self-interest and we desire periods of solitude in order 
to have the greater fruition of that blessing. 

Let me end, lest I should grow weary, by saying that this 
prayer is the beginning of all blessings: the flowers have now 
reached a point at which they are almost ready to bloom. The 
soul is very conscious of this and at such a time it could not 
possibly decide that God was not with it; only when it becomes 
conscious once more of its failings and imperfections does it 
grow fearful of everything, as it is well that it should. There are 
souls, nevertheless, whose confidence that God is with them 
brings them benefits which are greater than all the fears that 
can beset them. For, if a soul is by nature loving and grateful^ 
the remembrance of the favour which God has granted it causes 
it to turn to God despite all the punishments of hell which it 
can imagine. This, at any rate, was what happened to me, 
wicked as I am. 

As I shall go on later to speak of the signs of true spirituality 
and it has cost me much labour to apprehend them clearly 
I am not going to speak of them here and now. I believe that, by 
God's help, I shall be able to do so with some degree of success; 
for, quite apart from the experiences which have done me so 


much good, I have been taught by certain very learned men 
and very holy persons to whom it is right that credence should 
be given, so that souls which by the Lord's goodness reach this 
point may not become as fatigued as I did. 


Treats of the third degree of prayer and continues to expound veiy lofty 
matters^ describing what the soul that teaches this state is able to dp 
and the effects produced by these great favours of the Lord. This 
chapter is well calculated to uplift the spirit in praises to God and 
to provide great consolation for those who teach this state. 

Let us now go on to speak of the third water with which this 
garden is watered that is, of running water proceeding from a 
river or a spring. This irrigates the garden with much less 
trouble, although a certain amount is caused by the directing of 
it. But the Lord is now pleased to help the gardener, so that He 
may almost be said to be the gardener Himself, for it is He Who 
does everything. This state is a sleep of the faculties, which are 
neither wholly lost nor yet can understand how they work. 
The pleasure and sweetness and delight are incomparably greater 
than in the previous state, for the water of grace rises to the 
very neck of the soul, so that it is unable to go forward, and has 
no idea how to do so, yet neither can it turn back: it would fain 
have the fruition of exceeding great glory. It is like a person 
holding the candle in his hand 1 , who is * soon to die a death that 
he longs for; and in that agony it is rejoicing with ineffable joy. 
This seems to -me to be nothing less than an all but complete 
death to everything in the world and a fruition of God. I know 
no other terms in which to describe it or to explain it, nor does 
the soul, at such a time, know what to do: it knows not whether 
to speak or to be silent, whether to laugh or to weep. This state 
is a glorious folly, a heavenly madness, in which true wisdom is 
acquired, and a mode of fruition in which the soul finds the 
greatest delight 

It is now, I believe, some five, or perhaps six, years since the 
Lord granted me this prayer in abundance, and granted it me 
many times, yet I never understood it or knew how to describe 
it. My intention, therefore, when I reached 'this point, was to 
say very little about it, or even nothing at all. I fully realized 

1 [I have translated literally, but the phrase, a common one in Spanish, is equivalent 
to "at the point of death."] 


that it was not a complete union of all the faculties and yet it 
was very obviously something higher than the previous state 
of prayer; but I confess that I could neither decide nor under- 
stand the nature of this difference. I believe it is because of 
Your Reverence's humility in consenting to be helped by sim- 
plicity as great as mine that to-day, after I had communicated, 
the Lord granted me this prayer, without allowing me to go 
beyond it, and set these comparisons before me, and taught me 
how to express all this and to describe what the soul in this 
state must do. I was certainly astonished, for in a moment I 
understood everything. I used often to commit follies because 
of this love, and to be inebriated with it, yet I had never been 
able to understand its nature. I realized that it came from 
God but I could not understand the method of His working; 
for the truth is that the faculties are in almost complete union, 
though not so much absorbed as not to act. I am extremely 
pleased at having understood it at last. Blessed be the Lord, Who 
has given me this consolation! 

The faculties retain only the power of occupying themselves 
wholly with God; not one of them, it seems, ventures to stir, 
nor can we cause any of them to move except by trying to fix 
our attention very carefully on something else, and even then 
I do not think we could entirely succeed in doing so. Many 
words are spoken, during this state, in praise of God, but,, unless 
the Lord Himself puts order into them, they have no orderly 
form. The understanding, at any rate, counts for nothing here; 
the soul would like to shout praises . aloud, for it is in such a 
state that it cannot contain itself a state of delectable disquiet. 
Already the flowers are opening: see, they are beginning to 
send out their fragrance. The soul would like everyone to see 
her now, and become aware of her glory, to the praise of God, 
and help her to sing His praises. She seems to me like the woman 
spoken of in the Gospel, who wanted to call (or did call) her 
neighbours 1 . Such as these, I think, must have been the wondrous 
feelings of the royal prophet David, when he played on the 
harp and sang in praise of God. I am very much devoted to 
this glorious long and I wish all were, especially those of us who 
are sinners. 2 

God, what must that soul be like when it is in this state! 
It would fain be all tongue, so that it might praise the Lord. 
It utters a thousand holy follies, striving ever to please Him Who 
thus possesses it. I know a person who, though no poet, composed 

1 St. Luke xv, 9. 

* The feast of King David is to be found in the Carmelite calendar revised by the 
Chapter-General in 1564. 

gfc LIFE [CHAP. 

some verses in a very short time, which were full of feeling and 
admirably descriptive of her pain 1 : they did not come from 
her understanding, but, in order the better to enjoy the bliss 
which came to her from such delectable pain, she complained 
of it to her God. She would have been glad if she could have 
been cut to pieces, body and soul, to show what joy this pain 
caused her. What torments could have been set before her at 
such a time which she would not have found it delectable to 
endure for her Lord's sake? She sees clearly that, when the 
martyrs suffered their torments, they did hardly anything of 
themselves, for the soul is well aware that fortitude comes from 
somewhere outside itself. But what will the soul experience 
when it regains its senses and goes back to live in the world 
and has to return to the world's preoccupations and formalities? 
I do not think what I say is in the least exaggerated; I have 
rather fallen short of the truth in describing this kind of rejoicing 
which the Lord desires a soul to experience while in this exile. 
Blessed be Thou, Lord, for ever; let all things for ever praise 
Thee. Be pleased now, my King, I beseech Thee, to ordain 
that since, as I write this, I am, by Thy goodness and mercy, 
not yet recovered from this holy heavenly madness a favour 
which Thou grantest me through no merits of my own either 
those with whom I shall have to do may also become mad 
through Thy love or I myself may have no part in anything 
to do with the world or may be taken from it. This servant of 
Thine, my God, can no longer endure such trials as come when 
she finds herself without Thee; for, if she is to live, she desires 
no repose in this life nor would she have Thee give her any. 
This soul would fain see itself free: eating is killing it; sleep 
brings it anguish. It finds itself in this life spending its time 
upon comforts, yet nothing can comfort it but Thee: it seems 
to be living against nature, for it no longer desires to live to 
itself, but only to Thee. 

O my true Lord and Glory, what a cross light and yet most 
heavy hast Thou prepared for those who attain to this state! 
Light, because it is sweet; heavy, because there come times 
when there is no patience that can endure it: never would the 
soul desire to be free from it save to find itself with Thee. When 
it remembers that as yet it has rendered Thee no service and 
that by living 2 it can still serve Thee, it would gladly take up 

a much heavier cross and never die until the end of the world. 


1 The "person", as so often in St. Teresa, was the author herself. [The description 
of the poem is too vague for it to be identified.] 

2 [Lit.: " oy seeing" (tntndo), which reading P. Silverio adopts; but I think we may 
assume this to be an error for "by living" (vimendo)*] 

XVI] , LIFE 99 

It sets no store by its own repose if by forfeiting this it can do 
Thee a small service. It knows not what to desire, but it well 
knows that it desires nothing else but Thee. 

my son ! (He to whom this is addressed and who commands 
me to write it is so humble that he desires to be addressed thus). 1 
May Your Reverence alone see some of these things in which 
I am transgressing my proper limits! For there is no reason 
strong enough to keep me within the bounds of reason when, 
the Lord takes me out of myself. And since I communicated 
this morning I cannot believe that it is I who am speaking 
at all: I seem to be dreaming what I see and I wish all the 
people I see were suffering from the same complaint that I 
have now. I beseech Your Reverence, let us all be mad, for 
the love of Him Who was called mad for our sakes. Your 
Reverence says that you are attached to me: I want you to 
show it by preparing yourself for God to grant you this favour, 
for I see very few people who are not too worldly-wise to do 
what is incumbent upon them. I may of course be more so 
than anybody else: Your Reverence must not allow me to be. 
You are my confessor, my father 2 , and it is to you that I have 
entrusted my soul : undeceive me, then, by telling me the truth, 
for such truths as these are very seldom told. 

1 wish we five, 3 who now love each other in Christ, could 
make an agreement together. Just as others in recent times 
have been meeting secretly to contrive evil deeds and heresies 
against His Majesty, 4 so we might try to meet sometimes to 
undeceive one another and to advise one another as to ways 
in which we might amend our lives and be more pleasing to 
God; for there is no one who knows himself as well as he is 
known by those who see him if they observe him lovingly and 
are anxious to help him. I say "secretly", because it is no 
longer the fashion to talk in this way: even preachers nowadays 
phrase their sermons so as not to give offence. 5 No doubt their 

1 The reference is to P. Pedro Ibariez. The parenthetical sentence [which I have 
bracketed in the text] is scored through in the autograph, by some hand other than 
the Saint's probably by P. Banez. 

a After this word come three or four others, which have been so effectively scored 
through that they are indecipherable. No doubt they were words eulogizing P. 

8 Probably the other four were P. Daza, Don Francisco de Salcedo, Dona Guiomar 
de Ulloa and P. Ibanez. 

4 The reference is to clandestine meetings held at Valladolid by a group of people 
suspected of heresy, under the leadership of Dr. Agustin Gazalla, a Canon of Sala- 
manca and a Chaplain to the Emperor Charles V. These meetings came to an end in 
1559, when an auto was held which involved persons of high rank and caused a great 
sensation in the country. The unorthodox propaganda of the Cazallist group spread 
as far as Avila and St. Teresa had herself come into contact with it. 

fr P. Banez wrote in the margin of the autograph here: "Legant praedicatores," 

ioo LIFE [CHAP. 

intention is good, and the work they do is good too, but they 
lead few people to amend their lives. How is it that there are 
not many who are led by sermons to forsake open sin? Do you 
know what I think? That it is because preachers have too 
much worldly wisdom. They are not like the Apostles, flinging 
it all aside and catching fire with love for God; and so their 
flame gives little heat: I do not say that their flame is as great 
as the Apostles' was, but I could wish it were stronger than I 
see it is. Does Your Reverence know what our great care ought 
to be? To hold our life in abhorrence and to consider our 
reputation as quite unimportant. Provided we say what is true 
and maintain it to the glory of God, we ought to be indifferent 
whether we lose everything or gain everything. For he who 
in all things is truly bold in God's service will be as ready to 
do the one as the other. I do not say I am that kind of person, 
but I wish I were. 

Oh, what great freedom we enjoy! It makes us look upon 
haying to live and act according to the laws of the world as 
captivity! It is a freedom which we obtain from the Lord; 
and there is not a slave who would not risk everything in order 
to get his ransom and return to his native country. And as 
this is the true road, there is no reason for lingering on it, for 
we shall never gain complete possession of that great treasure 
until our life is over. May the Lord give us His help to this 
end. Your Reverence must tear up what I have written if it 
seems good to you to do so; in that case consider it as a letter 
addressed to yourself and forgive me for having been so bold. 


Continues the same subject, the exposition of this third degree of prayer. 
Concludes her exposition of the ejfects produced by it. Describes 
the hindrances caused in this state by the imagination and the 

A reasonable amount has been said concerning this mode of 
prayer and of what the soul must now do or, more correctly, 
of what God does within it, for it is He Who now undertakes 
the work of the gardener and is pleased that the soul should be 
idle* The will has only to consent to those favours which it is 
enjoying and to submit to all that true Wisdom may be pleased 
to accomplish in it. And for this it needs courage, that is cer- 
tain; for the joy is so great that sometimes the soul seems to be 


on the point of leaving the body and what a happy death 
that would be! 

In this state I think it is well, as Your Reverence has been 

told, for the soul to abandon itself wholly into the arms of God. 

If He is pleased to take it to Heaven, let it go; if to hell, it is 

not distressed, so long as it is going there with its Good. If its life 

is to come to an end for ever, that is its desire; if it is to live a 

thousand years, that is its desire also. Let His Majesty treat it as 

His own : it no longer belongs to itself; it is given wholly to the 

Lord; it can cease to worry altogether. When God grants the 

soul prayer as sublime as that which belongs to this state, He 

can do all this and much more, for that is the effect it produces. 

The soul realizes that He is doing this without any fatiguing of its 

understanding; only I think it is, as it were, astonished to see 

what a good gardener the Lord is making, and to find that He 

does not desire the soul to undertake any labour, but only to take 

its delight in the first fragrance of the flowers. In any one of these 

visits, brief as its duration may be, the Gardener, being, as 

He is, the Creator of the water, gives the soul water without 

limit; and what the poor soul could not acquire, even if it 

laboured and fatigued its understanding for as much as twenty 

years, this heavenly Gardener achieves in a moment; the fruit 

grows and ripens in such a way that, if the Lord wills, the soul 

can obtain sufficient nourishment from its own garden. But 

He allows it to share the fruit with others only when it has eaten 

so much of it that it is strong enough not to consume it all by 

merely nibbling at it, 1 and not to fail to get profit from it, nor 

to omit to recompense Him Who has bestowed it, but to maintain 

others and give them food at its own cost while itself perhaps 

dying of hunger. This will be understood perfectly by persons 

of intelligence and they will be able to apply it more effectively 

than I can describe it, for I am growing tired. 

The virtues, then, are now stronger than they were previously, 
in the Prayer of Quiet, for the soul sees that it is other than it 
was, and does not realize how it is beginning to do great things 
with the fragrance that is being given forth by the flowers. It 
is the Lord's will that these shall open so that the soul may see 
that it possesses virtues, though it also knows very well that it 
could not itself acquire them, and has in fact been unable to 

1 \Tanjuerte , . . que no se le vaya en gostaduras. A difficult phrase, which used to be 
interpreted by gpTfag gasiaxra^ a presumedly archaic substantive from gaster 
(spend, waste, fail to profit from), for gostadura t of which the modern form is gustedttra, 
and which denotes the action of tasting. But I greatly prefer gostadura^ and, though 
the figure could not be pressed to its logical conclusion, the translation I suggest 
seems wholly in accord with St, Teresa's realistic way of looking at things, whereas 
the eastadura reading ("strong enough not to fritter it all away", "... not to waste 
it all") is by comparison conventional.] 

102 LIFE [CHAP. 

do so even after many years, whereas in this short space of 
time they have been given to it by the heavenly Gardener. 
The humility, too, which remains in the soul is much greater 
and deeper than it was previously, for it sees more clearly that 
it has done nothing at all of itself save to consent that the Lord 
shall grant it favours and to receive them with its will. 

This kind of prayer, I think, is quite definitely a union of the 
entire soul with God, except that His Majesty appears to be 
willing to give the faculties leave to understand, and have 
fruition of, the great things that He is now doing. It happens 
at certain seasons, very often indeed (I say this now so that 
Your Reverence may know that it can happen and recognize 
it when it happens to you: I myself was quite distracted by it), 
that, when the will is in union, the soul realizes that the will 
is captive and rejoicing, and that it alone is experiencing great 
quiet, while, on the other hand, the understanding and the 
memory are so free that they can attend to business and do 
works of charity. This may seem to be just the same as the 
Prayer of Quiet of which I spoke, but it is really different 
partly because in that prayer the soul would fain neither stir 
nor move and is rejoicing in that holy repose which belongs to 
Mary, while in this prayer it can also be a Martha. Thus the 
soul is, as it were, occupied in the active and in the contemplative 
life at one and the same time : it is doing works of charity and 
also the business pertaining to its mode of life, as well as busying 
itself with reading. Those in this state, however, are not wholly 
masters of themselves and they know very well that the better 
part of the soul is elsewhere. It is as if we were speaking to one 
person while someone else was speaking to us: we cannot be 
wholly absorbed in either the one conversation or the other. 

This is a thing which can be very clearly apprehended, and 
which, when experienced, gives great satisfaction and pleasure; 
it is also a most effective preparation for attainment to a very 
restful state of quiet, since it gives the soul a period of solitude or 
freedom from its business. It works in this way. A person may 
have so far satisfied his appetite that he has no need to eat; Ee 
feels quite well fed and would not look at ordinary food; yet he 
is not so replete that, if he sees something nice, he will not be 
glad to eat some of it. Just so here : the soul in this state is not 
satisfied by the pleasures of the world and has no desire for them 
because it has within it that which satisfies it more: greater joys 
in God and desires to satisfy its desire, to have greater fruition 
and to be with Him that is what the soul $eeks. 

There is another kind of union, which, though not complete 
union, is more nearly so than the one which I have just described. 


but not so much, so as the one which has been referred to in speak- 
ing of this third water. Your Reverence will be very glad, if 
the Lord grants them all to you (assuming that you do not possess 
them already), to have a written description of them and thus 
to be able to understand their nature. For it is one favour that 
the Lord should grant this favour; but quite another to understand 
what favour and what grace it is; and still another to be able 
to describe and explain it. And although only the first of these 
favours seems necessary for the soul to be able to proceed without 
confusion and fear and to walk in the way of the Lord with the 
greater courage, trampling underfoot all the things of the world, 
it is a great benefit and favour to understand it, and it is right that 
everyone who can do so, as well as everyone who cannot, should 
praise the Lord because His Majesty has granted it to a few 
people who are alive so that we may reap advantage from it. 
Now frequently this kind of union which I wish to describe comes 
about as follows (and this is specially true of myself, for God very 
often grants me this favour in this way). God constrains the will, 
and also, I think, the understanding, as it does not reason but 
occupies itself in the fruition of God, like one who, as he looks, 
sees so much that he does not know where to look next: as he 
sees one thing he loses sight of another so that he can give no 
description of anything. The memory remains free both it and 
the imagination must be so and when they find themselves 
alone one would never believe what a turmoil they make and 
how they try to upset everything. Personally, I get fatigued by 
it and I hate it, and often I beseech the Lord, if He must upset me 
so much, to let me be free from it at times like these. "My God," 
I say to Him sometimes, "when shall my soul be wholly employed 
in Thy praise, instead of being torn to pieces in this way, and 
quite helpless?" This makes ^me realize what harm is done to 
us by sin, which has bound us in this way so that we cannot do 
as we would namely, be always occupied in God. 

As I say, it happens at times to-day has been one of them, 
so I have it clearly in mind that I find my soul is becoming 
unwrought, because it wants to be wholly where the greater part 
of it is, yet it knows this to be impossible. Memory and imagina- 
tion make such turmoil within it that they leave it helpless; 
and the other faculties, not being free, are unable to do anything, 
even harm. They do the soul extreme harm, of course, by dis- 
turbing it; but, when I say "unable to do harm", I mean that 
they have no strength and cannot concentrate. The under- 
standing gives the soul no help whatever by what it presents to 
the imagination; it rests nowhere, but goes from one thing to 
another, like nothing so much as those restless, importunate 

[04 LIFE [CHAP. 

ittle moths that fly by night: just so the understanding flies from 
me extreme to another. This comparison, I think, is extremely 
ipt; for though the understanding has not the strength to do any 
larm, it importunes those who observe it. I do not know what 
-emedy there is for this, for so far God has not revealed one to me. 
[f He had, I would very willingly make use of it, for, as I say, I 
am often tormented in this way. Here we have a picture of our 
Dwn wretchedness and a very clear one of God's great power; 
the faculty which remains free causes us all this fatigue and harm, 
whereas the others, which are with His Majesty, bring us rest. 

The remedy which I finally discovered, after having caused 
myself much fatigue for many years, is the one I spoke of when 
describing the Prayer of Quiet: the soul must take no more notice 
of the will than it would of a madman, but leave it to its work, 
for God alone can set it free. In this state, in short, it is a slave. 
We must bear patiently with it as Jacob bore with Lia, for the 
Lord is showing us an exceeding great mercy if He allows us to 
enjoy Rachel. I say that it is a slave because, after all, however 
much it may try, it cannot attract to itself the other faculties ; 
on the contrary, they often compel it to come to them and it 
does so without the smallest effort. Sometimes, seeing it so con- 
fused and restless because of its desire to be with the other 
faculties, God is pleased to have pity on it, and His Majesty allows 
it to burn in the fire of that Divine candle, which Has already 
deprived the others of their natural form and reduced them to 
ashes : so great are the blessings they are enjoying that they have 
become almost supernatural. 

In all these types of prayer which I have described in speaking 
of this last-mentioned kind of water, which comes from a spring, 
the glory and the repose of the soul are so great that the body 
shares in the soul's joy and delight, and this to a most marked extent, 
and the virtues are very highly developed in it, as I have said. 
It seems that the Lord has been pleased to describe these states 
in which the soul finds itself, and to do so as clearly, I believe, 
as in this life is possible. Your Reverence should discuss the 
matter with some spiritual person, who has himself reached this 
state and is a man of learning. If he tells you that it is all right, 
you may take his assurance as coming from God and be grateful 
for it to His Majesty. For, in due time, as I have said, you will 
rejoice greatly at having understood the nature of this, until 
He gives you grace to understand it fully, just as He is giving you 
grace to enjoy it. As His Majesty has granted you the first grace, 
you, with all your intellect and learning, will come to understand 
it as well. May He be praised for all things, for ever and ever. 



Treats of the fourth degree of prayer. Begins to describe in an excellent 
way*- the great dignity conferred by the Lord upon the soul in this 
state. This chapter is meant for the great encouragement of those who 
practise prayer to the end that thy may strive to reach this lofty state, 
which it is possible to attain on earth, though not through our merits 
but by the Lord's goodness. Let it be read with attention, for its 
exposition is most subtle and it contains most noteworthy things.* 

May the Lord teach me words in which to say something about 
the fourth water. His help is very necessary, even more so than 
it was for describing the last water, for in that state the soul still 
feels that it is not completely dead and we may use this word 
in speaking of it, since it is dead to the world. As I said, it retains 
sufficient sense to realize that it is in the world and to be conscious 
of its loneliness, and it makes use of exterior things for the expres- 
sion of its feelings, even if this is only possible by signs. In the 
whple of the prayer already described, and in each of its stages, 
the gardener is responsible for part of the labour; although 
in these later stages the labour is accompanied by such bliss and 
consolation that the soul's desire would be never to abandon it: 
the labour is felt to be, not labour at all, but bliss. In this state 
of prayer .to which we have now come, there is no feeling, but only 
rejoicing, unaccompanied by any understanding of the thing 
in which the soul is rejoicing. It realizes that it is rejoicing in 
some good thing, in which are comprised all good things at once, 
but it cannot comprehend this good thing. In this rejoicing all 
the senses are occupied, so that none of them is free or able to 
act in any way, either outwardly or inwardly. Previously, as I 
have said, they were permitted to give some indication of the great 
joy that they feel; but in this state the soul's rejoicing is beyond 
comparison greater, and yet can be much less effectively expressed, 
because there is no power left in the body, neither has the soul 
any power, to communicate its rejoicing. At such a time every- 
thing would be a great hindrance and torment to it and a dis- 
turbance of its rest; so I assert that, if there is union of all the 
faculties, the soul cannot communicate the fact, even if it so 
desires (when actually experiencing it, I mean) : if it can communi- 
cate it, then it is not union. 

1 These four words were crossed out in the manuscript by the author. 
* This sentence was also crossed out by the author. 

io6 LIFE [CHAP. 

The way in which this that we call union comes, and the nature 
of it, I do not know how to explain. It is described in mystical 
theology, but I am unable to use the proper terms, and I cannot 
understand what is meant by "mind" or how this differs from 
"soul" or "spirit". They all seem the same to me, though the 
soul sometimes issues from itself, like a fire that is burning and 
has become wholly flame, and sometimes this fire increases with 
great force. This flame rises very high above the fire, but that 
does not make it a different thing: it is the same flame which 
is in the fire. This, with all your learning, Your Reverences will 
understand : there is nothing more that I can say of it. 

What I do seek to explain is the feelings of the soul when it is 
in this Divine union. It is quite clear what union is two different 
things becoming one. O my Lord, how good Thou art ! Blessed 
be Thou for ever! Let all things praise Thee, my God, Who 
hast so loved us that we can truly say that Thou hast communica- 
tion with souls even in this exile : even if they are good, this is 
great bounty and magnanimity. In a word, my Lord, it is a 
bounty and a magnanimity which are all Thine own, for Thou 
givest according to Thine own nature. O infinite Bounty, how 
magnificent are Thy works! Even one whose understanding 
is not occupied with things of the earth is amazed at being 
unable to understand such truths. Dost Thou, then, grant these 
sovereign favours to souls who have so greatly offended Thee? 
Truly my own understanding is overwhelmed by this, and when I 
begin to think about it I can make no progress. What progress, 
indeed, is there to be made which is not a turning back? As for 
giving Thee thanks for such great favours, there is no way of 
doing it, though sometimes I find it a help to utter foolishness. 

When I have just received these mercies, or when God is 
beginning to bestow them on me (for while actually receiving 
them, as I have said, a person has no power to do anything), 
I am often wont to exclaim: "Lord, consider what Thou art 
doing; forget not so quickly the gravity of my evil deeds. Though 
Thou must have forgotten them before Thou couldst forgive me, 
I beseech Thee to remember them in order that Thou mayest 
set a limit to Thy favours. O my Creator, pour not such precious 
liquor into so broken a vessel, for again and again Thou hast 
seen how I have allowed it to run away. Put not such a treasure 
in a place where the yearning for the comforts of this life has not 
yet disappeared as it should, or it will be completely wasted. How 
canst Thou entrust this fortified city and the keys of its citadel 
to so cowardly a defender, who at the enemy's first onslaught 
allows him to enter? Let not Thy love, eternal King, be so great 
as to imperil such precious jewels. For it seems, my Lord, that 


men have an excuse for despising them if Thou bestowest them 
upon a creature so wretched, so base, so weak, so miserable and 
so worthless, who, though she may strive not to lose them, by 
Thy help (of which I have no small need, being what I am), 
cannot make use of them to bring profit to any. I am, in short, a 
woman, and not even a good one, but wicked. 

"When talents are placed in earth as vile as this they seem to 
be not only hidden but buried. It is not Thy wont, Lord, to do 
such great things for a soul and to bestow such favours upon it 
save that it may profit many others. Thou knowest, my God, 
that I beseech this of Thee with all my heart and will, and that I 
have oftentimes besought it of Thee, and that I count it a blessing 
to lose the greatest blessing which may be possessed upon earth, 
if Thou wilt bestow thy favours upon one who will derive greater 
profit from this blessing, to the increase of Thy glory." It has 
come to pass many times that I have said these things and others 
like them. And afterwards I have become conscious of my 
foolishness and want of humility; for the Lord well knows what 
is fitting for me and that my soul would have no power to 
attain salvation did not His Majesty bestow it on me with 
these great favours. 

I propose also to speak of the graces and effects which remain 
in the soul, and of what it can do by itself, if it can do anything, 
towards reaching a state of such sublimity. 

This elevation of the spirit, or union, is wont to come with 
heavenly love; but, as I understand it, the union itself is a 
different thing from the elevation which takes place in this same 
union. Anyone who has not had experience of the latter will 
think it is not so; but my own view is that, even though they 
may both be the same, the Lord works differently in them, 
so that the soul's growth in detachment from creatures is 
much greater in the flight of the spirit. It has become quite clear 
to me that this is a special grace, though, as I say, both may be, 
or may appear to be, the same; a small fire is as much fire as 
is a large one and yet the difference between the two is evident. 
In a small fire, a long time elapses before a small piece of iron 
can become red-hot; but if the fire be a large one, the piece of 
iron, though it may also be larger, seems to lose, all its properties 
very quickly. So it is, I think; with these two kinds of favour 
from the Lord. Anyone who has attained to raptures will, I 
know, understand it well* If he has not experienced it, it will 
seem ridiculous to him, as well it may be : for a person like myself 
to speaj: of such a thing and to make any attempt to explain 
a matter which cannot even begin to be described in words may 
very well be ridiculous. 

io8 LIFE [CHAP. 

But I believe that the Lord will help me in this, since His 
Majesty knows that, next to doing what I am bidden, my chief 
aim is to cause souls to covet so sublime a blessing. I shall say 
nothing of which I have not myself had abundant experience. 
The fact is, when I began to write about this fourth water, it 
seemed to me more impossible to say anything about it than to 
talk Greek and indeed it is a most difficult matter. So I laid it 
aside and went to Communion. Blessed be the Lord, Who thus 
helps the ignorant! O virtue of obedience, that canst do all 
things! God enlightened my understanding, sometimes giving 
me words and sometimes showing me how I was to use them, 
for, as in dealing with the last kind of prayer, His Majesty seems 
to be pleased to say what I have neither the power nor the learn- 
ing to express. What I am saying is the whole truth; and thus, 
if I say anything good, the teaching comes from Him, while 
what is bad, of course, comes from that se^ of evil myself. 
And so I say, if there are any persons (and there must be many) 
who have attained to the experiences in prayer which the Lord 
has granted to this miserable woman, and who think that they 
have strayed from the path and wish to discuss these matters 
with me, the Lord will help His servant to present His truth. 

Speaking now of this rain which comes from Heaven to fill 
and saturate the whole of this garden with an abundance of 
water, we can see how much rest the gardener would be able to 
have if the Lord never ceased to send it whenever it was necessary. 
And if there were no winter, but eternal warm weather, there 
would never be a dearth of flowers and fruit and we can imagine 
how delighted he would be. But during this life, that is impossible, 
and, when one kind of water fails, we must always be thinking 
about obtaining another. This rain from Heaven often comes 
when the gardener is least expecting it. Yet it is true that at first 
it almost always comes after long mental prayer: as one degree 
of prayer succeeds another, the Lord takes this little bird and puts 
it into the nest where it may repose. Having watched it flying 
for a long time, staving with mind and will and all its strength 
to seek and please God, it becomes His pleasure, while it is still 
in this life, to give it its reward. And what a great reward that is ! 
For even a moment of it suffices to recompense the soul for all 
the trials that it can possibly have endured. 

While seeking God in this way, the soul becomes conscious that 
it is fainting almost completely away, in a kind of swoon, with an 
exceeding great and sweet delight. It gradually ceases to breathe 
and all its bodily strength begins to fail it: it cannot even move 
its hands without great pain; its eyes involuntarily close, or, if 
they remain open, they can hardly see. If a person in this state 


attempts to read, he is unable to spell out a single letter: it is as 
much as he can do to recognize one. He sees that letters are there, 
but, as the understanding gives him no help, he cannot read them 
even if he so wishes. He can hear, but he cannot understand what 
he hears. He can apprehend nothing with the senses, which only 
hinder his soul's joy and thus harm rather than help him. It is 
futile for him to attempt to speak: his mind cannot manage to 
form a single word, nor, if it could, would he have the strength 
to pronounce it. For in this condition all outward strength 
vanishes, while the strength of the soul increases so that it may the 
better have fruition of its bliss. The outward joy experienced 
is great and most clearly recognized. 

This prayer, for however long it may last, does no harm; 
at least, it has never done any to me, nor do I ever remember 
feeling any ill effects after the Lord has granted me this favour, 
however unwell I may have been: indeed, I am generally much 
the better for it. What harm can possibly be done by so great a 
blessing? The outward effects are. so noteworthy that there can 
be no doubt some great thing has taken place: we experience 
a loss of strength but the experience 'is one of such delight that 
afterwards our strength grows greater. 

It is true that at first this happens in such a short space of time 
so, at least, it was with me that because of its rapidity it can be 
detected neither by these outward signs nor by the failure of the 
senses. But the exceeding abundance of the favours granted to 
the soul clearly indicates how bright has been the sun that has 
shone upon it and has thus caused the soul to melt away. And 
let it be observed that, in my opinion, whatever may be the length 
of the period during which all the faculties of the soul are in this 
state of suspension, it is a very short one: if it were to last for half 
an hour, that would be a long time I do not think it has ever 
lasted so long as that with me. As the soul is not conscious of it, 
its duration is really very difficult to estimate, so I will merely 
say that it is never very long before one of the faculties becomes 
active again. It is the will that maintains the contact with God 1 
but the other two faculties soon begin to importune it once more. 
The will, however, is calm, so they become suspended once again ; 
but eventually, after another short period of suspension, they 
come back to life. 

1 [Lit.: "Maintains the web." This curious phrase will be familiar to readers of 
St. John of the Gross ("Break the web of this sweet encounter": Living Flame of Love, 
Stanza I) : cf . St. John of the Cross, III, 34-40, where the phrase is commented upon 
by its author. Here I think the reference is not to the web, or thread, of human life, 
but to that of Connnunion with God. Changing the metaphor, one might render: 
"It is the will that is the soul's stanchion." In the text, however, I have used a phrase 
which better suits the context.] 


With all this happening, the time spent in prayer may last, 
and does last, for some hours; for, once the two faculties have 
begun to grow inebriated with the taste of this Divine wine, 
they are very ready to lose themselves in order to gain the more, 
and so they keep company with the will and all three rejoice 
together. But this state in which they are completely lost, and 
have no power of imagining anything for the imagination, I 
believe, is also completely lost is, as I say, of brief duration, 
although the faculties do not recover to such an extent as not 
to be for some hours, as it were, in disorder, God, from time to 
time, gathering them once more to Himself. 

Let us now come to the most intimate part of what the soul 
experiences in this condition. The persons who must speak 
of it are those who know it, for it cannot be understood, still less 
described. As I was about to write of this (I had just communi- 
cated and had been experiencing this very prayer of which I am 
writing), I was wondering what it is the soul does during that 
time, when the Lord said these words to me: "It dies to itself 
wholly, 1 daughter, in order that it may fix itself more and more 
upon Me; it is no longer itself that lives, but I. As it cannot 
comprehend what it understands, it is an understanding which 
understands not." One who has experienced this will under- 
stand something of it; it cannot be more clearly expressed, 
since all that comes to pass in this state is so obscure. I can only 
say that the soul feels close to God and that there abides within 
it such a certainty that it cannot possibly do other' than believe. 
All the faculties now fail and are suspended in such a way that, 
as I have said, it is impossible to believe they are active. If the 
soul has been meditating upon any subject, 2 this vanishes from 
its memory as if it had never thought of it." If it has been reading, 
it is unable to concentrate upon what it was reading or to remem- 
ber it; and the same is true if it has been praying. So it is that 
this importunate little butterfly the memory is now burning 
its wings and can no longer fly. The will must be fully occupied 
in loving, but it cannot understand how it loves; the under- 
standing, if it understands, does not understand how, it 
understands, or at least can comprehend nothing of what 
it understands. It does not seem to me to be understanding, 
because, as I say, it does not understand itself. Nor can I my- 
self understand this. 

There was one thing of which at first I was ignorant: I did not 

1 [The Spanish is dcshdcesei this verb, often used by St. Teresa, is the contrary of 
la&r, to do, and can generally be rendered "be consumed", "be destroyed" : "be 

2 [Paw: incident, occurrence here, no doubt, referring to some scene in the 


know that God was in all things., and, when He seemed to me to be 
so very present, I thought it impossible. I could not cease believ- 
ing that He was there, for it seemed almost certain that I had 
been conscious of His very presence. Unlearned persons would 
tell me that He was there only by grace; but I could not believe 
that, for, as I say, He seemed to me to be really present; 
and so I continued to be greatly distressed. From this doubt I 
was freed by a very learned man of the Order of the glorious 
Saint Dominic 1 : he told me that He was indeed present and 
described how He communicated Himself to us, which brought 
me very great comfort. It is to be noted and understood that 
this water from Heaven, this greatest of the Lord's favours, 
leaves the greatest benefits in the soul, as I shall now explain. 


Continues the same subject* Begins to describe the ejects produced in the 
soul by this degree of prayer. Exhorts souls earnestly not to turn 
back, even if after receiving this favour they should fall, and not to 
give up prayer. Describes the harm that will ensue if they do not 
follow this counsel. This chapter is to be read very carefully and 
will be of great comfort to the weak and to sinners. 

The soul that has experienced this prayer and this union is left 
with a very great tenderness, of such a kind that it would gladly 
become consumed, 2 not with pain but in tears of joy. It finds 
itself bathed in these tears without having been conscious of them 
or knowing when or how it shed them* But it derives great joy 
from seeing the vehemence of the fire assuaged by water which 
makes it burn the more. This sounds like nonsense but none the 
less it is what happens. Sometimes, when I have reached the end 
of this prayer, I have been so completely beside myself that I 
have not known whether it has been a dream or whether the bliss 
that I have been experiencing has really come to me; and I 
have only known that it has not been e dream through finding 
myself bathed in tears, which have been flowing without causing 
me any distress and with such vehemence and rapidity that it 
has been as if they had fallen from a cloud in heaven. This 
would happen to me in the early stages, when the condition soon 
passed away. 

1 Probably P. Bnez, though P. Gracian and Maria de San Jos6 say that P. Barrdn 
is meant. 

2 [Deshaeerse. Gf. p. no, n. i, above.] 

ii2 LIFE [CHAP. 

The soul is left so full of courage that it would be greatly 
comforted if at that moment, for God's sake, it could be hacked 
to pieces. It is then that it makes heroic resolutions and promises, 
that its desires become full of vigour, that it begins to abhor the 
world and that it develops the clearest realization of its own 
vanity. The benefits that it receives are more numerous and 
sublime than any which proceed from the previous states of prayer ; 
and its humility is also greater, for it clearly sees how by no 
efforts of its own it could either gam or keep so exceeding and so 
great a favour. It also sees clearly how extremely unworthy it is 
for in a room bathed in sunlight not a cobweb can remain hidden. 
It sees its own wretchedness. So far is vainglory from it that 
it cannot believe it could ever be guilty of such a thing. For 
now it sees with its own eyes that of itself it can do little or 
nothing, and that it hardly even gave its consent to what has 
happened to it, but that, against its own will, the door seemed to 
be closed upon all the senses so that it might have the greater 
fruition of the Lord. It is alone with Him: what is there for it 
to do but to love Him? It can neither see nor hear save by making 
a great effort and it can take little credit for that. Then its past 
life comes up before it and all the truth of God's great mercy 
is revealed. The understanding has no need to go out hunting; 
for its food is already prepared. The soul realizes that it has 
deserved to go to hell, yet its punishment is to taste glory. It 
becomes consumed 1 in praises of God as I would fain become now. 
Blessed be Thou, my Lord, Who from such filthy slime as I 
dost draw water so pure as to be meet for Thy table! Praised 
be Thou, O Joy of the angels, Who art thus pleased to raise up a 
worm so vile! 

The benefits thus achieved remain in the soul for some time; 
having now a clear realization that the fruits of this prayer are 
not its own, it can start to share them and yet have no lack of 
them itself. It begins to show signs of being a soul that is guarding 
the treasures of Heaven and to be desirous of sharing them with 
others and to beseech God that it may not be alone in its riches. 
Almost without knowing it, and doing nothing consciously to 
that end, it begins to benefit its neighbours, and they become 
aware of this benefit because the flowers have aow so powerful 
a fragrance as to make them desire to approach them. They 
realize that the soul has virtues, and, seeing how desirable the 
fruit is, would fain help it to partake of it. If the ground is well 
dug over by trials, persecutions, back-bitings and infirmities 
(for few can attain such a state without these), and if it is broken 
up by detachment from self-interest, the water will sink in so far 

1 [Dcshacerse.'] 

XIX] LIFE 113 

that it will hardly ever grow dry again. But if it is just earth in 
the virgin state and as full of thorns as I was at first; if it is not 
yet free from occasions of sin and not so grateful as it should be 
after receiving such great favours : then it will once again become 
dry. If the gardener becomes careless, and the Lord is not pleased, 
out of His sheer goodness, to send rain upon it afresh, then you can 
set down the garden as ruined. This happened to me several 
times and I am really amazed at it: if I had not had personal 
experience of it, I could not believe it. I write this for the con- 
solation of weak souls like myself, so that they may never despair 
or cease to trust in God's greatness. Even if, after reaching so 
high a point as this to which the Lord has brought them, they 
should fall, they must not be discouraged if they would not be 
utterly lost. For tears achieve everything: one kind of water 
attracts another. 

This is one of the reasons why, though being what I am, 
I was encouraged to obey my superiors by writing this and giving 
an account of my wretched life and of the favours which the Lord 
has granted me, albeit I have not served Him but offended Him. 
I only wish I were a person of great authority so that my words 
might be believed: I beseech the Lord that His Majesty may be 
pleased to grant me this. I repeat that no one who has begun 
to practise prayer should be discouraged and say: "If I am going 
to fall again, it will be better for me not to go on practising prayer." 
I think it will be if such a person gives up prayer and does not 
amend his evil life; but, if he does not give it up, he may have 
confidence that prayer will bring him into the haven of light. 
This was a matter about which the devil kept plaguing me, and I 
suffered so much through thinking myself lacking in humility 
for continuing prayer, when I was so wicked, that, as I have said, 
for a year and a half I gave it up or at any rate for a year: I 
am not quite sure about the six months. This would have been 
nothing less than plunging into hell nor was it: there was no 
need for^ any devils to send me there. Oh, God help me, how 
terribly blind I was ! How well the devil succeeds in his purpose 
when he pursues us like this! The deceiver knows that if a soul 
perseveres in practising prayer it will be lost to him, and that, by 
the goodness of God, all the relapses into which he can lead it 
will only help it to make greater strides onward in His service. 
And this is a matter of some concern to the devil. 

O my Jesus! What a sight it is to see a soul which has attained 
as far as this, and has fallen into sin, when Thou of Thy mercy 
stretchest forth Thy hand to it again and raisest it up! How 
conscious it becomes of the multitude of Thy wonders and 
mercies, and of its own wretchedness 1 Now indeed is it consumed 

ii4 LIFE [CHAP. 

with shame when it acknowledges Thy wonders. Now it dares 
not raise its eyes. Now it raises them only to acknowledge what 
it owes Thee. Now it devoutly beseeches the Queen of Heaven 
to propitiate Thee. Now it invokes the saints, who likewise fell 
after Thou hadst called them, that they may aid it. Now it feels 
all Thou givest it to be bounty indeed, for it knows itself to be un- 
worthy even of the ground it treads upon. It has recourse to the 
Sacraments and a lively faith is implanted in it when it sees 
what virtues God has placed in them; it praises Thee for having 
left us such medicine and such ointment for our wounds, which, 
far from healing them superficially, eradicate them altogether. 
At this it is amazed and who, Lord of my soul, can be other 
than amazed at mercy so great and favour so immense, at treason 
so foul and abominable? I cannot think why my heart does not 
break when I write this, wicked that I am. 

With these few tears that I am here shedding, which are Thy 
gift (water, in so far as it comes from me, drawn from a well so 
impure), I seem to be making Thee payment for all my acts of 
treachery for the evil that I have so continually wrought and 
for the attempts that I have made to blot out the favours Thou 
hast granted me. Do Thou, my Lord, make my tears of some 
efficacy. Purify this turbid stream, if only that I may not lead 
others to be tempted to judge me, as I have been tempted to 
judge others myself. For I used to wonder, Lord, why Thou 
didst pass by persons who were most holy, who had been piously 
brought up, who had always served Thee and laboured for Thee 
and who were truly religious and not, like myself, religious only 
in name: I could not see why Thou didst not show them the same 
favours as Thoji showedst to me. And then, O my Good, it became 
clear to me that Thou art keeping their reward to give them all 
at once that my weakness needs the help Thou bestowest on 
me, whereas they, being strong, can serve Thee without it, and 
that therefore Thou dost treat them as brave souls and as souls 
devoid of self-seeking. 

But nevertheless Thou knowest, my Lord, that I would often 
cry out unto Thee, and make excuses for those who spoke ill of 
me, for I thought they had ample reason for doing so. This, 
Lord, was after Thou of Thy goodness hadst kept me from so 
greatly offending Thee and when I was turning aside from 
everything which I thought could cause Thee displeasure; and 
as I did this, Lord, Thou didst begin to open Thy treasures for 
Thy servant. It seemed that Thou weft waiting for nothing else 
than that I should be willing and ready to receive them, and so, 
after a short time, Thou didst begin, not only to give them, but to 
be pleased that others should know Thou wert giving them, to me. 

XIX] LIFE 115 

When this became known, people began to have a good 
opinion of one of whose great wickedness all were not fully aware, 
though much of it was clearly perceptible. Then suddenly began 
evil-speaking and persecution, and I think with great justification, 
so I conceived enmity for none, but besought Thee to consider 
how far they were justified. They said that I wanted to become 
a saint, and that I was inventing new-fangled practices, though 
in many respects I had not even achieved the full observance 
of my Rule, nor had I attained to the goodness and sanctity 
of nuns in my own house, and indeed I do not believe that I 
ever shall unless God brings this about of His own goodness. 
On the contrary, I was well on the way to giving up things that 
were good and adopting habits that were not so : at least I was 
adopting them to the best of my ability and I had a great deal of 
ability for doing wrong. So these people were not to blame 
when they blamed me. I do not mean only the nuns, but other 
people: they revealed things about me that were true because 
Thou didst permit it. 

Once when, after having been tempted in this way for some 
time, I was reciting the Hours, I came to the verse which says: 
"Justus es, D offline, and Thy judgments. . . - 5 ' 1 I began to think 
how very true this was ; for the devil was never powerful enough 
to tempt me sufficiently to make me doubt that Thou, my Lord, 
hast all good things, or any other truth of the Faith; indeed, it 
seemed to me that the less of a natural foundation these 
truths had, the more firmly I held them and the greater was the 
devotion they inspired in me. Since Thou art almighty, I 
accepted all the wondrous works which Thou hadst done as 
most certain; and in this respect, as I say, I never harboured a 
doubt. While I was wondering how in Thy justice Thou couldst 
ordain that so many of Thy faithful handmaidens, as I have said, 
should not be given the graces and favours which Thou didst 
bestow on me, being such as I was, Thou didst answer me, Lord, 
saying " Serve thou Me, and meddle not with this ". This was the 
first word which I ever heard Thee speak to me and so it made 
me very much afraid; but, as I shall describe this method of 
hearing later, together with certain other things, I will say 
nothing abouj it here, for that would be to digress from my 
purpose and I think I have digressed quite sufficiently as it is. 
I hardly know what I have said. It cannot be otherwise, and 

1 Psalm cxviii, 137 [A.V., cxix.j 137]. The Latin text is: " Justus es, Domme, et 
rectum judicium tuum." The remainder of the verse no doubt escaped the Saint's 
memory. [The Latin opening she would remember, because it comes at the beginning 
of one of the divisions of the psalm. This is an interesting illustration of her indiffer- 
ence to precision in her work. Even a hasty revision would have revealed the 
omission of the latter part of the verse, it is strange that P. Binez did not supply it.] 


Your Reverence must suffer these lapses; for, when I consider 
what God has borne with from me, and find myself in my present 
state, it is not surprising if I lose the thread of what I am saying 
and of what I still have to say. May it please the Lord that any 
foolishness I talk shall be of this kind and may His Majesty never 
allow me to have the power to resist Him in the smallest degree; 
rather than that, let Him consume me, just as I am, at this very 

, It suffices as an illustration of His great mercies that He should 
have forgiven such ingratitude as mine, and this not once but 
many times. He forgave Saint Peter once ; but me He has forgiven 
often. Good reason had the devil for tempting me, telling me 
not to aspire to a close friendship with One for Whom I was so 
publicly showing my enmity. How terribly blind I was ! Where, 
my Lord, did I think I could find help save in Thee? What 
foolishness to flee from the light and to walk on all the time 
stumbling! What a proud humility did the devil find in me when 
I ceased to make use of the pillar and the staff whose support I 
so greatly need lest I should suffer a great fall ! As I write I make 
the sign of the Cross : I do not believe I have ever passed through 
so grave a peril as when the devil put this idea into my head 
under the guise of humility. How, he asked me, could one who, 
after receiving such great favours, was still as wicked as I, 
approach God in prayer? It was enough for me, he would go on, 
to recite the prayers enjoined upon me, as all the nuns did, but 
I did not even do this properly: why, then, should I want to do 
more? It was showing small respect and indeed contempt for 
the favours of God. I was right to think about this and to try to 
realize it, but extremely wrong to put my thoughts into practice. 
Blessed be Thou, Lord, Who didst thus succour me ! 

This seems to me to be the principle on which the devil tempted 
Judas, except that he dared not tempt me so openly: none the less, 
he would gradually have brought me to the same fate. For the 
love of God, let all who practise prayer consider this. Let them 
be told that by far the worst life I ever led was when I abandoned 
prayer. Let them consider with what a fine remedy the devil 
provided me and with what a pretty humility he inspired me. 
It caused me a great deaL of inward unrest. And how could my 
soul find any rest? Miserable creature that it was, it went 
farther and farther away from its rest. I was very conscious of 
the favours and graces I had received from Thee; for the pleasures 
of earth I felt a loathing : I am amazed that I was able to endure 
it all. Only hope enabled me to do SQ, for, as far as I can remem- 
ber (and it must have been more than twenty-one years ago), 
I never swerved from my resolution to return to prayers I was 

XIX] LIFE 117 

only waiting until I should be quite free from sins, Oh, how far 
this hope led me astray! 

The devil would have encouraged me in it until the Day 
of Judgment, so that he might then carry me off to helL 
But, though I had recourse to prayer and reading, and these 
revealed truths to me and showed me along what a disastrous 
road I was walking, and though I importuned the Lord, often 
with tears, I was so wicked that all this could avail me nothing. 
When I abandoned these practices, and gave myself up to pastimes 
which led me into many occasions of sin and helped me but little 
I will even venture to say that the only thing they helped me 
to do was to fall what could I expect but what I have already 
mentioned? I think much credit in the sight of God is due to a 
friar of the Order of Saint Dominic, 1 a very learned man, for it 
was he who awakened me from this sleep; it was he who, as I 
think I said, made me communicate once a fortnight, and do less 
that was wrong. I began to return to my senses, though I did 
not cease to offend the Lord, but, as I had not lost my way, I 
continued upon it, first falling and then rising again, and making 
very little progress; still, he who never ceases walking, and 
advances all the time, may reach his goal late, but does reach it 
all the same. To lose one's way seems to be the same thing as 
giving up prayer. May God, for His name's sake, deliver us 
from doing so. 

From this it is evident (and for the love of the Lord let it be 
carefully noted) that, even if a soul should attain the point of 
receiving great favours from God in prayer, it must put no trust 
in itself, since it is prone to fall, nor must it expose itself to occasions 
of sin in any way whatsoever. This should be carefully considered, 
for it is most important: even though a favour may undoubtedly 
have come from God, the devil will later be able to practise a 
deception upon us by treacherously making such use as he can 
of that very favour against persons who are not strong in the 
virtues, or detached, or mortified; for such persons, as I shall 
explain later, are not sufficiently strengthened to expose themselves 
to occasions of sin and other perils, however sincere may be their 
desires and resolutions. This is excellent doctrine, and it is not 
mine, but has been taught me by God, and so I should like 
people as ignorant as I am to know it. Even if a soul should 
be in this state, it must not trust itself so far as to sally forth to 
battle: it will have quite enough to do to defend itself. Arms are 
needed here for defence against devils : the soul is not yet strong 
enough to fight against them and to trample them under its 
feet as do those in the state which I shall describe later. 

1 P. Barr6n. 

ii8 LIFE [CHAP. 

This is the deception by which the devil wins his prey. When 
a soul finds itself very near to God and sees what a difference 
there is between the good things of Heaven and those of earth, 
and what love the Lord is showing it, there is born of this love a 
confidence and security that there will be no falling away from 
what it is now enjoying. It seems to have a clear vision of the 
reward and believes that it cannot now possibly leave something 
which even in this life is so sweet and delectable for anything as 
base and soiled as earthly pleasure. Because it has this confidence, 
the devil is able to deprive it of the misgivings which it ought to 
have about itself; and, as I say, it runs into many dangers, and 
in its zeal begins to give away its fruit without stint, thinking 
that it has now nothing to fear. This condition is not a concomit- 
ant of pride, for the soul clearly understands that of itself it can 
do nothing; it is the result of its extreme confidence in God, which 
knows no discretion. The soul does not realize that it is like a 
bird still unfledged. It is able to come out of the nest, and God 
is taking it out, but it is not yet ready to fly, for its virtues are not 
yet strong and it has no experience which will warn it of dangers, 
nor is it aware of the harm done by self-confidence. 

It was this that ruined me; and, both because of this and for 
other reasons, the soul has great need of a director and of inter- 
course with spiritual people. I fully believe that, unless a soul 
brought to this state by God completely abandons Him, His 
Majesty will not cease to help it nor will He allow it to be lost. 
But when, as I have said, the soul falls, let it look to it for the 
love of the Lord, let it look to it lest the devil trick it into 
abandoning prayer, in the way he tricked me, by inspiring it 
with a false humility, as I have said, and as I should like to repeat 
often. Let it trust in the goodness of God, which is greater than 
all the evil we can do. When, with full knowledge of ourselves, 
we desire to return to friendship with Him, He remembers 
neither our ingratitude nor our misuse of the favours that He 
has granted us. He might well chastise us for these sins, but in 
fact He makes use of them only to forgive us the more readily, 
just as He would forgive those who have been members of His 
household, and who, as they say, have eaten of His bread. Let 
them remember His words and consider what He has done to 
me, who wearied of offending His Majesty before He ceased 
forgiving me. Never does He weary of giving and never can 
His mercies be exhausted : let us, then, not grow weary of receiving. 
May He be blessed for ever, Amen, and may all things praise 

XX] LIFE 119 


Treats of the difference between union and rapture. Describes the nature 
of rapture and says something of the blessing that comes to the soul 
which the Lord, of His goodness, brings to it. Describes the effects 
which it produces. This chapter is particularly admirable. 

I should like, with the help of God, to be able to describe the 
difference between union and rapture, or elevation, or what they 
call flight of the spirit, or transport it is all one. I mean that 
these different names all refer to the same thing, which is also 
called ecstasy. It is much more beneficial than union : the effects 
it produces are far more important and it has a great many more 
operations, for union gives the impression of being just the same 
at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, and it all 
happens interiorly. But the ends of these raptures are of a 
higher degree, and the effects they produce are both interior and 
exterior. May the Lord explain this, as He has explained every- 
thing else, for I should certainly know nothing of it if His Majesty 
had not shown me the ways and manners in which it can to some 
extent be described. 

Let us now reflect that this last water which we have described 
is so abundant that, were it not that the ground is incapable 
of receiving it, we might believe this cloud of great Majesty 
to be with us here on this earth. But as we are giving Him 
thanks for this great blessing, and doing our utmost to draw 
near to Him in a practical way, the Lord gathers up the soul, just 
(we might say) as the clouds gather up the vapours from the earth, 
and raises it up till it is right out of itself (I have heard that it is 
in this way that the clouds or the sun gather up the vapours) 1 
and the cloud rises to Heaven and takes the soul with it, and 
begins to reveal to it things concerning the Kingdom that He has 
prepared for it. I do not know if the comparison is an exact one, 
but that is the way it actually happens. 

In these raptures the soul seems no longer to animate the body, 
and thus the natural heat of the body is felt to be very sensibly 
diminished: -it gradually becomes colder, though conscious of 
the greatest sweetness and delight. No means of resistance is 
possible, whereas in union, where we are on our own ground, 
such a means exists: resistance may be painful and violent but 
it can almost always be effected. But with rapture, as a rule, 

1 The bracketed sentence is found in the margin of the autograph in St. Teresa's 

120 LIFE [CHAP. 

there is no such possibility: often it comes like a strong, swift 
impulse, before your thought can forewarn you of it or you 
can do anything to help yourself; you see and feel this cloud, or 
this powerful eagle, rising and bearing you up with it on its wings. 

You realize, I repeat, and indeed see, that you are being 
carried away, you know not whither. For, though rapture brings 
us delight, the weakness of our nature at first makes us afraid of 
it, and we need to be resolute and courageous in soul, much 
more so than for what has been described. For, happen what 
may, we must risk everything, and resign ourselves into the hands 
of God and go willingly wherever we are carried away, for we 
are in fact being carried away, whether we like it or no. In such 
straits do I find myself at such a time that very often I should 
be glad to resist, and I exert all my strength to do so, in particular 
at times when it happens in public and at many other times in 
private, when I am afraid that I may be suffering deception. 
Occasionally I have been able to make some resistance, but at 
the cost of great exhaustion, for I, would feel as weary afterwards 
as though I had been fighting with a powerful giant. At other 
times, resistance has been impossible: my soul has been borne 
away, and indeed as a rule my head also, without my being able 
to prevent it: sometimes my whole body has been affected, to 
the point of being raised up from the ground. 

This has happened only rarely; but once, when we were 
together in choir, and I was on my knees and about to communi- 
cate, it caused me the greatest distress. It seemed to me a most 
extraordinary thing and I thought there would be a great deal 
of talk about it; so I ordered the nuns (for it happened after I 
was appointed Prioress) not to speak of it. On other occasions, 
when I have felt that the Lord was going to enrapture me 
(once it happened during a sermon, on our patronal festival, 
when some great ladies were present), 1 1 have lain on the ground 
and the sisters have come and held me down, but none the less 
the rapture has been observed. I besought the Lord earnestly 
not to grant me any more favours which had visible and exterior 
signs; for I was exhausted by having to endure such worries 
and after all (I said) His Majesty could grant me that favour 
without its becoming known. He seems to have been pleased of 
His goodness to hear me, for since making that prayer I have 
never again received any such favours: it is true, however, that 
this happened not long since. 

1 [P. Silyerio says that this happened at St. Joseph's, Avila, *' about the year 1565". 
But, as this book was only completed in 1565, and the incident is referred to in a 
phrase which suggests some lapse of time, his chronology would seem to have little 
meaning. Lewis (p. 162, n. 6) says " 1564 or 1565", which is not much better ] 

XX] LIFE 121 

When I tried to resist these raptures, it seemed that I was being 
lifted up by a force beneath my feet so powerful that I know 
nothing to which 1 can compare it, for it came with a much 
greater vehemence than any other spiritual experience and I 
felt as if I were being ground to powder. It is a terrible struggle, 
and to continue it against the Lord's will avails very little, for 
no power can do anything against His. At other times His 
Majesty is graciously satisfied with our seeing that He desires 
to show us this favour, and that, if we do not receive it, it is not 
due to Himself. Then, if W T C resist it out of humility, the same 
effects follow as if we had given it our entire consent. 

These effects are very striking. One of them is the manifesta- 
tion of the Lord's mighty power: as we are unable to resist His 
Majesty's will, either in soul or in body, and are not our own 
masters, we realize that, however irksome this truth may be, there is 
One stronger than ourselves, and that these favours are bestowed 
by Him, and that we, of ourselves, can do absolutely nothing. 
This imprints in us great humility. Indeed, I confess that in me 
it produced great fear at first a terrible fear. One sees one's 
body being lifted up from the ground; and although the spirit 
draws it after itself, and if no resistance is offered does so very 
gently, one does not lose consciousness at least, I myself have 
had sufficient to enable me to realize that I was being lifted up. 
The majesty of Him Who can do this is manifested in such a 
way that the hair stands on end, and there is produced a great 
fear of offending so great a God, but a fear overpowered by 1 
the deepest love, newly enkindled, for One Who, as we see, has 
so deep a love for so loathsome a worm that He seems not to 
be satisfied by literally drawing the soul to Himself, but will also 
have the body, mortal though it is, and befouled as is its clay by 
all the offences it has committed. 

This favour also leaves a strange detachment, the nature 
of which I cannot possibly describe, but I think I can say it is 
somewhat different from that produced by these purely spiritual 
favours, I mean; for, although these produce a complete detach- 
ment of spirit, in this favour the Lord is pleased that it should 
be shared by the very body and it will thus experience a new 
estrangement from things of earth, which makes life much more 
distressing. Afterwards it produces a distress which we cannot 
ourselves bring about or remove once it has come. I should like 
very much to explain this great distress, but I am afraid I cannot 
possibly do so : still, I will say something about it if I can. 

It is to be observed that these are my most recent experiences, 
more recent than all the visions and revelations of which I shall 

1 [Erwuelto. See p. 34, n. i, above.] 

122 LIFE [CHAP. 

write and than the period during which I practised prayer and 
the Lord granted me such great consolations and favours. Though 
these have not ceased, it is this distress which I shall now describe 
that I more frequently and habitually experience at present. 
Sometimes it is more severe and sometimes less so. It is of its 
maximum severity that I will now speak; for although I shall 
later describe those violent impulses which I used to experience 
when the Lord was pleased to grant me raptures, these, in my 
view, have no more connection with this distress than has an 
entirely physical experience with an entirely spiritual one, and 
in saying that I do not think I am greatly exaggerating. For, 
although the distress I refer to is felt by the soul, it is also felt by 
the body. Both seem to share in it, and it does not cause the same 
extreme sense of abandonment as does this. In producing the 
latter, as I have said, we can take no part, though very often a 
desire unexpectedly arises, in a way which I cannot explain. 
And this desire, which in a single moment penetrates to the very- 
depths of the soul, begins to weary it so much that the soul soars 
upwards, far above itself and above all created things, and God 
causes it to be so completely bereft of everything that, however 
hard it may strive to do so, it can find nothing on earth to bear it 
company. Nor does it desire company; it would rather die 
in its solitude. Others may speak to it, and it may itself make 
every possible effort to speak, but all to no avail; do what it may, 
its spirit cannot escape from that solitude. God seems very far 
from the soul then, yet sometimes He reveals His greatness in 
the strangest way imaginable; this cannot -be described nor, I 
think, believed or understood save by those who have experienced 
it. For it is a communication intended, not to comfort the soul 
but to show it the reason why it is wearied namely, that it is 
so far away from the Good which contains all that is good within 

In this communication the desire grows, and with it the 
extremity of loneliness experienced by the soul with a distress 
so subtle and yet so piercing that, set as it is in that desert, it can, 
I think, say literally, as the Royal Prophet said, when he was in 
the same state of loneliness (except that, being a saint, he may 
have been granted that experience by the Lord in a higher 
degree) : Vigitavi > etfactus sum sicut passer solitarius in tecto^ ' That 
verse comes to my mind at these times in such a way that I feel 
it is fulfilled in myself; and it is a comfort to me to know that 

1 Psalm ci, 8. [A.V. ch. 7] : "I have watched, and am become as a sparrow all alone 
on the housetop." [St. Teresa's spelling of Latin is largely phonetic and always 
quaint It will suffice to reproduce this one example of if VigUavi ed fatus sun sicud 
passer sohtarius yn tecto.' The orthography given in the text is here, and will normally 
be elsewhere, that of the Vulgate.] 

XX] LIFE 123 

others, especially such a prophet as this, have experienced that 
great extremity of loneliness. The soul, then, seems to be, not 
in itself at all, but on the house-top, or the roof, of its own house, 
and raised above all created things; I think it is far above even 
its own very highest part. 

On other occasions the soul seems to be going about in a state 
of the greatest need, and asking itself: "Where is thy God?" 1 
I should point out here that I did not know the meaning of this 
verse in the vernacular, and that later, when I had learned it, 
it was a comfort to me to think that the Lord had brought it to 
my mind without any effort of my own. At other times I used 
to remember some words of Saint Paul, about his being crucified 
to the world. 2 I do not say that this is true of me indeed, I 
know it is not but I think it is true of the soul when no comfort 
comes to it from Heaven, and it is not in Heaven, and when it 
desires no earthly comfort, and is not on earth either, but is, as 
it were, crucified between Heaven and earth; and it suffers 
greatly, for no help comes to it either from the one hand or from 
the other. For the help which comes to it from Heaven is, as I 
have said, a knowledge of God so wonderful, and so far above all 
that we can desire, that it brings with it greater torment; for its 
desire grows in such a way that I believe its great distress some- 
times robs it of consciousness, though such a state as that lasts 
only for a short time. It seems as though it were on the threshold 
of death, save that this suffering brings with it such great happi- 
ness that I know of nothing with which it may be compared. 
It is a martyrdom, severe but also delectable; for the soul will 
accept nothing earthly that may be offered it, even though it 
were the thing which it had been accustomed to 'enjoy most: 
it seems to fling it away immediately. It realizes clearly that it 
wants nothing save its God; but its love is not centred upon any 
particular attribute of Him : its desire is for the whole of God 
and it has no knowledge of what it desires. By "no knowledge", 
I mean that no picture is formed in the imagination; and, in 
my opinion, for a great part of the time during which it is in that 
state, the faculties are inactive: they are suspended by their 
distress, just as in union and rapture they are suspended by joy. 

Jesus ! I wish I could give Your Reverence a clear explana- 
tion of this, if only so that you might tell me what it is, for this is 
the state in which my soul now continually finds itself. As a rule, 
when not occupied, it is plunged into these death-like yearnings, 
and, when I am conscious that they are beginning, I become 
afraid, because they do not mean death. But when I am actually 

1 Psalm xli, 4 [A.V., xlii. 3], 

a Galatians vi. 14: " . . .try whom the world is crucified to me ? and I to the world." 

124 LIFE [CHAP. 

in that condition, I should like to spend the rest of my life suffer- 
ing in that way, although the pain is so excessive that one can 
hardly bear it, and occasionally, according to those of my sisters 
who sometimes see me like this, and so now understand it better, 
my pulses almost cease to beat, my bones are all disjointed, and 
my hands are so stiff that sometimes I cannot clasp them together. 
Until the next day I have pains in the wrists, and in the entire 
body, as though my bones had been wrenched asunder. 

Occasionally I really think that, if things are to go on like 
this, it must be the Lord's will to end them by putting an end to 
my life; for the distress I am in is severe enough to kill me, only 
I do not deserve that it should do so. All my yearning at such a 
time is to die: I do not think of purgatory, or of the great sins I 
have committed, for which I have deserved to go to hell. Such 
is my yearning to see God that I forget everything and the 
deserted and solitary state I am in seems better than all the world's 
companionship. If anything could comfort a person in this 
condition, it would be to speak with another who has passed 
through the same torment, for she finds that, despite her com- 
plaints of it, no one seems to believe her. 

The soul in this state is also tormented because its distress has 
so greatly increased that it no longer desires solitude, as it did 
before, and the only companionship it seeks is with one to whom 
it can voice its complaint. It is like a person who has a rope 
around his neck, is being strangled and is trying to breathe. 
It seems to me, then, that this desire for companionship proceeds 
from human weakness; for, since this distress imperils our life, 
which it most certainly does (as I have said, I have several 
times found my own life imperilled by serious dangers and 
illnesses, and I think I might say that this particular peril is as 
grave as any), the desire that body and soul shall not be parted 
is like a voice crying out for help to breathe; and by speaking of 
it and complaining and distracting itself, the soul seeks a way 
to live quite contrarily to the will of the spirit, or of its own higher 
part, which would prefer not to escape from this distress. 

I do not know if I am correct in what I say, or if I am expressing 
"it properly, but to the best of my belief that is what happens. 
I ask Your Reverence, what rest can I have in this life, since the 
rest which I used to enjoy, and which consisted in prayer and 
solitude, wherein the Lord would comfort me, is habitually turned 
into this torment; and yet it is so delectable, and the soul is so 
conscious of its worth, that it desires it more than all the favours 
which it had been accustomed to enjoy. It believes it, too, to be 
a safer state, because it is the way of the Cross; and in my view 
it comprises a delight of exceeding worth, because the body 

XX] LIFE 125 

gets nothing from it but distress, whereas the soul, even while 
suffering, rejoices alone in the joy and happiness which this 
suffering brings. I do not know how this can be, but so it is; 
and I believe I would not change this favour which the Lord is 
bestowing upon me (for it is certainly entirely supernatural and 
conies from His hand, and, as I have said, is in no way acquired 
by me) for any of the favours which I shall describe later: I do 
not say for all of them at once, but for any one of them taken by 
itself. And it must not be forgotten that this state, in which the 
Lord is now keeping me, has followed all the others described 
in this book: I mean that these violent impulses have followed 
the favours described here as having been bestowed upon me by 
the Lord. 

At first I was afraid, as I almost always am when the Lord 
bestows a favour upon me, though His Majesty reassures me as I 
go on. He told me not to fear but to set greater store by this 
favour than by any other which He had granted me; for by 
this distress the soul was purified, worked upon and refined like 
gold in the crucible, so that He might the betted set in it the enamel 
of His gifts : it was being cleansed now of the impurities of which 
it would need to be cleansed in purgatory. I had already 
quite clearly realized that it was a great favour, but this made me 
much more certain of the fact, and my confessor tells me that all 
is well. And although I was afraid, because I was so wicked, I 
could never believe that it was wrong; it was rather the sub- 
limity of the blessing that made me afraid, when I remembered 
how ill I had deserved it. Blessed be the Lord, Who is so good ! 

I seem to have wandered from my subject, for I began by 
speaking of raptures, but what I have been descnbing is something 
even greater than a rapture and thus it leaves behind it the effects 
I have referred to. 

Let us now return to raptures, and to their most usual character- 
istics. I can testify that after a rapture my body often seemed as 
light as if all weight had left it : sometimes this was so noticeable 
that I could hardly tell when my feet were touching the ground. 
For, while the rapture lasts, the body often remains as if dead 
and unable of itself to do anything: it continues all the time as 
it was when the rapture came upon it in a sitting position, for 
example, or with the hands open or shut. The subject rarely 
loses consciousness : I have sometimes lost it altogether, but only 
seldom and for but a short time. As a rule the consciousness is 
disturbed; and, though incapable of action with respect to out- 
ward things, the subject can still hear and understand, but only 
dimly, as though from a long way off. I do not say that he can 

126 LIFE [CHAP. 

hear and understand when the rapture is at its highest point by 
"highest point" I mean when the faculties are lost through 
being closely united with God. At that point, in my opinion, 
he will neither see, nor hear, nor perceive; but, as I said in 
describing the preceding prayer of union, this complete trans- 
formation of the soul in God lasts but a short time, and it is 
only while it lasts that none of the soul's faculties is able to 
perceive or know what is taking place. We cannot be meant to 
understand it while we are on earth God, in fact, does not wish 
us to understand it because we have not the capacity for doing 
so. I have observed this myself. 

Your Reverence will ask me how it is that the rapture some- 
times lasts for so many hours. What often happens to me is that, 
as I said of the preceding state of prayer, it makes itself felt inter- 
mittently. The soul is often engulfed or, to put it better, the 
Lord engulfs it in Himself and, when He has kept it in this 
state for a short time, He retains the will alone. The movements 
of the other two faculties seem to me like the movement of the 
pointer on a sundial, which is never motionless; though if it 
pleases the Sun of Justice 1 to do so, He can make it stand still. 
What I am describing lasts only a short time; but, as the impulse 
and the uplifting of the spirit have been violent, the will is still 
engulfed even when the other two faculties begin to move again 
and produces that operation in the body as though it were its 
absolute mistress. For, although the two restless faculties try 
to disturb it, the will, thinking that the fewer enemies it has, the 
better, prevents the senses from doing so, and thus causes their 
suspension, which is the Lord's will. For the most part the eyes 
are closed, though we may not wish to close them; if, as I have 
already said, they are occasionally open, the subject neither 
perceives nor pays attention to what he sees. 

There is very little, then, that a person in this condition can 
do, and this means that there will be little for him to do when 
the faculties come together again. Anyone, therefore, to whom the 
Lord grants this favour must not be discouraged-at finding, himself 
in this state, with the body unable to move for hours on end and 
the understanding and the memory sometimes wandering. True, 
they are generally absorbed in the praises of God or in an attempt 
to comprehend and realize what has happened to them. But even 
so they are not wide awake: they are like a person who has been 
asleep for a long time and has been dreaming and has not yet 
fully awakened. 

The reason I am expounding this at such great length is that 
I know that there are persons now, in this very place, to whom 

1 [Malachias iv, 2. A.V: "Sun of Righteousness."] 

XX] LIFE 127 

the Lord is granting these favours; and if those who are directing 
such persons have not themselves experienced them more 
especially if they have no learning they may think that, when 
enraptured, they ought to be as if dead. It is a shame that such 
suffering should be caused by confessors who do not understand 
this, as I shall say later. Perhaps I do not know what I am saying; 
but, if my words are at all to the point, Your Reverence will 
understand it, for the Lord has already given you experience of 
it, though, as this happened only recently, you may not have 
considered the matter as fully as I. The position, then, is that, 
however hard I try, my body, for considerable periods, has not 
the strength to make it capable of movement: all its strength has 
been taken away by the soul. Often a person who was previously 
quite ill and troubled with severe pain finds himself in good health 
again, and even stronger than before, for what the soul receives 
in rapture is a great gift, and sometimes, as I say, the Lord is 
pleased that the body should have a share in it because of its 
obedience to the will of the soul. After the recovery of con- 
sciousness, if the rapture has been deep, the faculties may remain 
absorbed for a day or two, or even for as long as three days, 
and be as if in a state of stupor, so that they seem to be no longer 

And now comes the distress of having to return to this life. 
Now the soul has grown new wings and has learned to fly. Now 
the little bird has lost its unformed feathers. Now in Christ's 
name the standard is raised on high; it would seem that what 
has happened is nothing less than that the captain of the fortress 
has mounted, or has been led up, to the highest of its towers, and 
has reared the standard aloft there in the name of God. From 
his position of security he looks down on those below. No longer 
does he fear perils; rather he desires them, for through them, as 
it were, he receives the assurance of victory. This becomes 
very evident in the little weight now given by the soul to earthly 
matters, which it treats as the worthless things that they are. 
He who is raised on high 1 attains many things. The soul has no 
desire to seek or possess any free-will, even if it so wished, 2 and 
it is for this that it prays to the Lord, giving Ham the keys 
of its will. Behold, our gardener has become the captain of a 
fortress! He wants nothing save the will of the Lord; he wants 
to be neither his own master nor anybody else's; he wants not 

1 [Qiden estd de lo alto ... I give the most obvious translation of this rather unusual 
phrase (lit., "he who is from the height"), but I suspect the omission of mirando: 
He who is looking (down) from on high . . ." the reference being to the soul's 
attitude to the world.] 

8 P. Banez altered this phrase to: "It has no desire to seek or possess any will save 
that of Our Lord," and the change was followed in the edfao princeps. 

128 LIFE [CHAP. 

so much as an apple from this orchard. If there is anything of 
value in it, let His Majesty distribute it; henceforth, for himself, 
he wants nothing, and desires only that everything should be 
done to God's glory and in conformity with His will. 

It is in this way, then, that these things actually happen, 
if the raptures are genuine, in which case there will remain in 
the soul the effects and advantages aforementioned. If they do 
not, I should doubt very much if they are from God; indeed, I 
should fear that they might be the frenzies described by Saint 
Vincent. 1 I know, for I have observed it in my own experience, 
that the soul, while enraptured, is mistress of everything, and 
in a single hour, or in less, acquires such freedom that it cannot 
recognize itself. It sees clearly that this state is in no way due 
to itself, nor does it know who has given it so great a blessing, 
but it distinctly recognizes the very great benefit which each of 
these raptures brings it. Nobody will believe this without having 
had experience of it; and so nobody believes the poor soul, 
knowing it to have been so wicked and seeing it now aspiring 
to such heroic acts; for it is no longer content with serving the 
Lord a little but must do so to the greatest extent in its power. 
They think this is a temptation and a ridiculous thing. If they 
knew that it arises, not from the soul, but from the Lord, to Whom 
the soul has given the keys of its will, they would not be so 

I believe myself that a soul which attains to this state neither 
speaks nor does anything of itself, but that this sovereign King 
takes care of all that it has to do. Oh, my God, how clear is 
the meaning of that verse about asking for the wings of a dove 2 
and how right the author was and how right we shall all be! 
to ask for them! It is evident that he is referring to the flight taken 
by the spirit when it soars high above all created things, and 
above itself first of all; but it is a gentle and a joyful flight and 
also a silent one. 

What power is that of a soul brought hither by the Lord, which 
can look upon everything without being ensnared by it! How 
ashamed it is of the time when it was attached to everything! 
How amazed it is at its blindness! How it pities those who are 
still blind, above all if they are persons of prayer to whom God 
is still granting favours! It would like to cry aloud to them and 

1 St. Vincent Ferrer. De Vita spintualt, Chap. XIV.: "Si dicerent tibi ahquid quod 
at contra fidem s et contra Scnpturani sacrara, aut contra bonos mores, abhorreas 
eorum visionem et judicia, tanquam stultas dementias, et earum raptus, sicut rabia- 
menta," St. Teresa could have read this book in a Spanish version published at 
Toledo in 1510, and reprinted five years later, in a volume containing also the life 
of Blessed Angela de Fohgno and the Rule of St. Glare 

* Psalm hv. 7 [A.V. Iv. 6]. 

XX] LIFE 129 

show them how mistaken they are, and sometimes it does in fact 
do so and brings down a thousand persecutions upon its head. 
Men think it lacking in humility and suppose that it is trying 
to teach those from whom it should learn, especially if the person 
in question is a woman. For this they condemn it, and rightly 
so, since they know nothing of the force by which it is impelled. 
Sometimes it cannot help itself nor endure failing to undeceive 
those whom it loves and desires to see set free from the prison of 
this life; for it is in a prison, nothing less and it realizes that it 
is nothing less that the soul has itself been living. 

It is weary of the time when it paid heed to niceties concern- 
ing its own honour, and of the mistaken belief which it had that 
what the world calls honour is really so. It now knows that to 
be a sheer lie and a lie in which we are all living. It realizes that 
genuine honour is not deceptive, but true; that it values what 
has worth and despises what has none; for what passes away, 
and is not pleasing to God, is worth nothing and less than nothing. 1 
It laughs at itself and at the time when it set any store by money 
and coveted it; though I do not believe I ever had to confess to 
being covetous of money it was quite bad enough that I should 
have set any store by it at all. If the blessing of which I now see 
myself in possession could be purchased with money I should set 
tremendous store by it, but it is clear that this blessing is gained 
by abandoning everything. 

What is there that can be bought with this money which people 
desire? Is there anything valuable? Is there anything lasting? 
If not, why do we desire it? It is but a miserable ease with which 
it provides us and one that costs us very dear. Very often it 
provides hell for us; it buys us eternal fire and endless affliction. 
Oh, if all would agree to consider it as useless dross, how well 
the world would get on, and how little trafficking there would 
be ! How friendly we should all be with one another if nobody 
were interested in money and honour! I really believe this would 
be a remedy for everything. 

The soul sees what blindness there is in the world where 
pleasures are concerned and how even in this life they purchase 
only trials and unrest. What disquiet! What discontent! What 
useless labour! Not only does die soul perceive the cobwebs 
which disfigure it and its own great faults, but so bright is the 
sunlight that it sees every little speck of dust, however small; 
and so, however hard a soul may have laboured to perfect itself, 

1 [Gf. St. John of the Cross, I, 25: "All the creatures are nothing; and their affections, 
we may say, are less than nothing. . . . The soul that sets its affections upon the being 
of creation is likewise nothing in the eyes of God, and less than nothing.** (Ascent 
of Mount Camel, L iv.)] 

130 LIFE [CHAP. 

once this Sun really strikes it, it sees that it is wholly unclean. 
Just so the water in a vessel seems quite clear when the sun is not 
shining upon it; but the sun shows it to be full of specks. This 
comparison is literally exact. Before the soul had experienced 
that state of ecstasy, it thought it was being careful not to offend 
God and doing all that it could so far as its strength permitted. 
But once it reaches this stage, the Sun of Justice strikes it 
and forces it to open its eyes, whereupon it sees so many of these 
specks that it would fain close them again. For it is not yet so 
completely the child of that mighty eagle that it can look this Sun 
full in the face; nevertheless, during the short time that it can 
keep them open, it sees that it is wholly unclean. It remembers 
the verse which says: "Who shall be just in Thy presence?" 1 
When it looks upon this Divine Sun, the brightness dazzles 
it; when it looks at itself, its eyes are blinded by clay. 2 The little 
dove is blind. And very often it remains completely blind, 
absorbed, amazed, and dazzled by all the wonders it sees. From 
this it acquires true humility, which will never allow it to say 
anything good of itself nor will permit others to do so. 3 It is the 
Lord of the garden, and not the soul, that distributes the fruit 
of the garden, and so nothing remains in its hands, but all the 
good that is in it is directed towards God; if it says anything 
about itself, it is for His glory. It knows that it possesses 4 nothing 
here; and, even if it so wishes, it cannot ignore this; for it sees 
it by direct vision, and, willy-nilly, shuts its eyes to things of 
the world, and opens them to an understanding of the truth. 


Continues and ends the account of this last degree of prayer. Describes 
the feelings of the soul in this state on its return to life in the world 
and the light which the Lord sheds for it on the world's delusions. 
Contains good doctrine. 

Concluding the matter under discussion, I remark that in 
this state there is no need for the soul to give its consent: it has 

1 [P. Silverio supposes this to refer to Psalm cxln. 2 (A.V., cxliii. 2) : "In thy sight 
no man living shall be justified." But the interrogative form suggests rather Job 
xxv, 4 ("Can man be justified compared with God?") or of Job iv. 17 ("Shall 
man be justified in comparison of God?")] 

* [Bam : mud, clay. Often used in Spanish as a symbol of the earthly and material.! 

3 [Cf Si John of the Cross, I, 62, 9.] 

*[This second u it" must refer to the soul (alma) 9 which is feminine in Spanish. 
P. Silveno, however, has the masculine pronoun el; I follow earlier texts, which amend 
this to dla.] 

XXI] LIFE 131 

given it already and knows that it has surrendered itself \villingly 
into His hands and that He cannot deceive it because He knows 
all things. This is not as it is in the world, where life is foil of 
delusions and deceits; you judge by the profession of friendship 
which a man makes that you have gained his good will, and then 
realize that the profession was a false one. No one can live amid 
such worldly trafficking, especially if he has himself any interest 
in the world. Blessed is the soul which the Lord brings to an 
understanding of the truth ! Oh, what a state this would be for 
kings! How much better it would be for them if they strove 
after it rather than after great dominion! What uprightness 
there would be in their kingdoms! How many evils would be 
prevented and might have been prevented already! Here no 
one fears to lose life or honour for the love of God. How great 
a blessing would such a state be for one who is more bound 
than those beneath him to consider the Lord's honour kings 
will always lead and the people will follow! For the sake of the 
smallest increase in the number of the faithful and for the privilege 
of affording heretics the smallest glimmer of light, I would give 
up a thousand kingdoms, and rightly so. For it is a different 
thing to win a kingdom that shall have no end, because a single 
drop of the water of that kingdom gives him who tastes it a loath- 
ing for everything earthly. What will it be, then, when the soul 
is completely engulfed in such water? 

O Lord, if Thou wert to give me the vocation to proclaim 
this aloud, I should be disbelieved, as are many who can speak 
of it in a way very different from mine. But at least I should 
myself have satisfaction. If I could make others understand a 
single one of these truths I think I should set little store by my 
own life. I do not know what I should do afterwards, for I am 
entirely untrustworthy; despite my being the sort of person I 
am, I keep experiencing strong and consuming impulses to say 
this to persons in authority. But as I can do no more, my Lord, I 
turn to Thee, to beg of Thee a remedy for everything, and well 
dost Thou know that, provided I remain in such a, state as not 
to offend Thee, I would very gladly strip myself of the favours 
Thou hast granted me and give them to kings; for I know that, if 
they had them, it would be impossible for them to permit things 
which they permit now, or to fail to possess the greatest blessings. 

O my God! Give them to understand how great are their 
obligations. For Thou hast been pleased to single them out on 
earth in such a way that, as I have heard, when Thou dost remove 
one of them, Thou even slowest signs in the heavens. Enkindled 
indeed, is my devotion, O my King, when I reflect that it is Thy 
will that this should teach them that they must imitate Thee 

132 LIFE [CHAP. 

in their lives, since at their deaths there are such signs in the 
heavens as there were when Thou Thyself didst die. 

I am being very bold. Your Reverence must destroy this if 
you think it wrong. But, believe me, I should say it better in the 
very presence of kings if I had the opportunity of doing so or 
thought they would believe me, for I commend them earnestly 
to God and wish that I might be of some profit to them. All 
this prompts one to risk one's life (and I often wish I could lose 
mine) : for the risk would be a small one to run for so great a gain, 
and life becomes hardly possible when with one's own eyes one 
sees the great delusion in which we are walking and the blind 
way in which we act. 

When a soul has reached this state, it has not merely desires 
to serve God: His Majesty also gives it strength to carry these 
desires into effect. No way in which it thinks it may serve God 
can be set before it into which it will not fling itself; and yet it 
is doing nothing, because, as I say, it sees clearly that nothing 
is of any value save pleasing God. The trouble is that no such 
task presents itself to people who are as worthless as I. May it 
be Thy pleasure, my God, that the time may come in which I 
shall be able to pay at least a few mites 1 of all I owe Thee; do 
Thou ordain it, Lord, according to Thy pleasure, that this Thy 
handmaiden may in some way serve Thee. There have been 
other women who have done heroic deeds for love of Thee. I 
myself am fit only to talk, and therefore, my God, it is not Thy 
good pleasure to test me by actions. All my will to serve Thee 
peters out in words and desires, and even here I have no freedom, 
for it is always possible that I may fail altogether. 

Do Thou strengthen and prepare my soul first of all, Good 
of all good, my Jesus, and do Thou then ordain means whereby 
I may do something for Thee, for no one could bear to receive as 
much as I have done and pay nothing in return. Cost what it 
may, Lord, permit me not to come into Thy presence with such 
empty hands, since a man's reward must be in accordance with 
his works. 2 Here is my life; here is my honour and my will. I 
have given it all to Thee; I am Thine; dispose of me according 
to Thy desire. Well do I know, my Lord, of how little I am 
capable. But now that I have approached Thee, now that I have 
mounted this watch-tower whence truths can be seen, I shall be 
able to do all things provided Thou withdraw not from me. 

1 Algtin cornado. The cornado was a small copper com, worth about as much as a 
cuarfo, or T ot7 f a peseta. It had come in late in the thirteenth century and in St 
Teresa's day was no longer current; but it was spoken of metaphorically, in the sense 
of "brass farthing* 1 or "mite", much as the cuarto is now. 

[Probably a reminiscence of Apocalypse ii, 123: "And I will give to every one of 
you according to your works."] 

XXI] LIFE 133 

Withdraw Thou, and, for however short a time, I shall go where 
I have already been namely, to hell. 

Oh, what it is for a soul which finds itself in this state to have 
to return to intercourse with all, to look at this farce of a life and 
see how ill-organized it is, to spend its time in meeting the needs 
of the body, in sleeping and in eating. It is wearied by every- 
thing; it cannot run away; it sees itself chained and captive; 
and it is then that it feels most keenly the imprisonment into which 
we are led by our bodies and the misery of this life. It under- 
stands why Saint Paul besought God to deliver him from it; 1 it 
joins its cries to his; and, 23 I have said on other occasions, it 
begs God for freedom. But in this state it often cries with such 
vehemence that it seems as if the soul is desirous of leaving the 
body and going in search of that freedom, since no one is delivering 
it. It wanders about like one who has been sold into a strange 
land; its chief trouble is finding so few to join in its complaints 
and prayers, since as a rule men desire to live. Oh, were we but 
completely detached and were our happiness not fixed on things 
of earth, how the distress caused us by living all the time without 
God would temper our fear of death with the desire to enjoy true 

I sometimes wonder, if a woman like myself, to whom the 
Lord has given this light, but whose charity is so lukewarm and 
whose works have not won for her any certainty of true rest, is 
nevertheless so often sad at finding herself in this exile, what the 
sorrow of the saints must have been. What must Saint Paul and the 
Magdalen have suffered, and others like them, in whom this fire 
of the love of God burned so vehemently? Their sufferings must 
have been one continuous martyrdom. I think any relief I obtain, 
and any desire I have for intercourse with others, is due to my 
finding people with these desires I mean desires coupled with 
works. I say "with works" because there are people who think 
and proclaim themselves to be detached and who must be so, 
for it is required by their vocation and certified by the many 
years that have passed since some of them began to walk in the 
way of perfection. Yet this soul of mine can distinguish from a 
long way off, and quite clearly, those who are detached only in 
word, and whose words are confirmed by their works; for it 
knows how little good is done by the one class and how much by 
the other; and this is a thing which can be very clearly discerned 
by anyone with experience. 

We have now described the effects proceeding from raptures 
which come from the Spirit of God. It is true that some of these 

1 Romans vii, 24* "Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body 
of this death?*' 

134 LIFE [CHAP. 

are greater and some less: by "less" I mean that, although these 
effects are produced, they are not at first expressed in works and 
it may not become evident that the soul has them. Perfection, 
too, has to grow; the cobwebs have to be brushed away from the 
memory; and this takes some time. And the more love and humil- 
ity grow in the soul, the greater is the fragrance yielded by these 
flowers of the virtues for the benefit both of the soul itself and of 
others. The fact is that, during one of these raptures, the Lord 
can work in the soul in such a way that there remains little for it 
to do in order to acquire perfection. For, except by experience, 
no one will ever believe what the Lord bestows on the soul here; 
no efforts of ours, in my opinion, can acquire it. I do not mean 
that those who work hard for many years, in the ways described 
by writers on prayer, following their principles and using their 
methods, will not, after much labour, and with the help of the 
Lord, attain to detachment and perfection. But they will not do so 
as speedily as by means of raptures, in which the Lord works 
without our collaboration and draws the soul away from the earth 
and gives it dominion over all earthly things, although there may 
be no more merits in such a soul than there were in mine and 
I cannot say more than that, for I had hardly any. 

The reason His Majesty does this is that it is His will, and it is 
according as He wills that He does it; and, though the soul may 
not be prepared, His Majesty prepares it to receive the blessing 
which He is giving it. Although He most certainly never fails 
to comfort those who make proper preparation and strive after 
detachment, He does not always bestow blessings because the 
recipients have deserved them by cultivating tKeir garden. It is 
sometimes His will, as I have said, to manifest His greatness in the 
worst kind of soil; He prepares it for every blessing, so that it 
seems almost as if it would be impossible for the soul to return 
to the life of sin against God which it had lived previously. Its 
mind is now so used to thinking upon eternal truth that 
anything else seems to it mere child's play. It sometimes enjoys 
a quiet laugh when it sees serious people men of prayer, leading 
the religious life making a great fuss about niceties concerning 
their honour, which it has long since trampled beneath its feet. 
They say that discretion demands this and that the more they have 
of the authority due to their positions the more good they can do. 
But the soul knows very well that if they subordinated the author- 
ity due to their positions to the love of God they would do more 
good in a day than they are likely to do as it is in ten years. 

So the life of this soul continues a troubled life, never without 
its crosses, but a life of great growth. Those with Vhom the soul 
has to do keep thinking it has reached its summit, but soon after- 

XXI] LIFE 135 

wards they find it higher still, for God is always giving it new 
favours. It is God Who is the soul of that soul; and, as He has it in 
His keeping. He sheds His light upon it. He seems to be continually 
watching over it, lest it should offend Him, and assisting and 
awakening it to serve Him. When my soul reached the point at 
which God began to grant me this great favour, my troubles 
ceased, and the Lord gave me strength to escape from them. 
Meeting occasions of sin and being with people who were wont 
to distract me had now no more effect upon me than if they had 
not been there. Indeed, what had previously been apt to harm 
me now became a help to me; everything was a means by which 
I was enabled to know and love God the better, to realize what I 
owed Him and to be grieved at having been what I once was. 

I knew quite well that none of this was due to myself and that 
I had not won it by my own efforts, for there had not been time 
enough for me to do that. His Majesty had given me the needful 
strength out of His own goodness. From the time when the Lord 
began to grant me the favour of these raptures, until now, this 
strength has continued to increase, and God of His goodness 
has held me by His hand so that I should not turn back. This 
being so, I realize that I am doing hardly anything of myself; I 
understand clearly that it is all the work of the Lord. I think, 
therefore, that souls on whom the Lord bestows these favours, 
and who walk in humility and fear, ever realizing that all is due to 
the Lord Himself and in no wise to our efforts, may safely mix 
with any kind of company whatsoever. However distracting 
and vicious such company may be, it will have no effect on them 
nor will it in any way move them; on the contrary, as I have said, 
it will help them and be a means whereby they may, Derive the 
greater profit. It is strong souls that are chosen by the Lord to 
profit others, though their strength does not come from themselves. 
For, when the Lord brings a soul to this state, He gradually 
communicates to it very great secrets. 

In this state of ecstasy occur true revelations, great favours 
and visions, all of which are of service in humbling and strength- 
ening the soul and helping it to despise the things of this life and 
to gain a clearer knowledge of the reward which the Lord has 
prepared for those who serve Him. May it please His Majesty 
that the immense bounty with which He has treated this miserable 
sinner may do something to influence those who read this, so that 
they may find strength and courage to give up absolutely every- 
thing for God's sake ! If His Majesty requites us so amply that even 
in this life we have a clear vision of the reward and the gain of 
those who serve Him, what will He not do in the life to come? 

136 LIFE [CHAP. 


Describes how safe a practice it is for contemplatives not to uplift their spirits 
to lofty things if they are not so uplifted by the Lord, and how the path 
leading to the most exalted contemplation must be the Humanity of 
Christ. Tells of an occasion on which she was herself deceived. 
This chapter is very profitable. 

There is one thing that I want to say, if Your Reverence thinks 
it well that I should do so, as in my opinion it is important. 
It will serve as what may be necessary advice ; for there are some 
books written about prayer which say that, although of itself the 
soul cannot reach this state, since the work wrought in it by the 
Lord is entirely supernatural, it can get some way towards it by 
raising the spirit above all created things and causing it to rise aloft 
in humility after it has spent some years in the Purgative life and 
made progress in the Illuminative. I do not know why they call 
it Illuminative but I understand it to mean the life of those who 
are making progress. And these books advise us earnestly to put 
aside all corporeal imagination and to approach the contem- 
plation of the Divinity. For they say that anything else, even 
Christ's Humanity, will hinder or impede those who have arrived 
so far from attaining to the most perfect contemplation. They 
quote the words of the Lord on this subject to the Apostles with 
regard to the coming of the Holy Spirit 1 I mean, after He had 
ascended into Heaven. But it seems to me that if they had then 
had faith, as they had after the Holy Spirit came, to believe that 
He was God and Man, it would have been no hindrance to them ; 
for this was not said to the Mother of God, though she loved Him 
more than all the rest. 2 But these writers think that, as this work 
is entirely spiritual, anything corporeal may disturb or impede it, 
and that what contemplatives must contrive to do is to think of 
themselves as circumscribed, but of God as being everywhere, 
so that they may become absorbed in Him. It will be all right, 
I think, to do this sometimes, but I cannot bear the idea that we 
must withdraw ourselves entirely from Christ and treat that 
Divine Body of His as though it were on a level with our miseries 

1 [Presumably St. John xvi. 7-14 is meant The Spanish has "at the time of" 
for "with regard to" and the "had" which follows is in the indicative mood, gram- 
matically, therefore, the sense of the passage is that the words were spoken after 
the Holy Spirit had come. No doubt this was an inadvertence on the part of the 

* The passage "But it seems to me . . . all the rest" was inserted by the author 
in the margin of the autograph. 


and with all created things. May His Majesty grant me the 
ability to explain myself. 1 

I do not contradict this view, for it is held by learned and 
spiritual men, who know what they are saying, and God leads 
souls along many roads and by many ways, as He has led mine. 
It is of mine that I now wish to speak, without interfering with the 
souls of others, and of the danger in which I found myself through 
trying to fall into line with what I read. I can well believe that 
anyone who attains to union and goes no farther I mean, to 
raptures and visions and other favours granted to souls by God 
will thinjc that view to be the best, as I did myself. But if I had 
acted upon it, I do not think I should ever have reached my 
present state, for I believe it to be mistaken. It may, of course, 
be I who am mistaken but I will relate what happened to me. 

As I had no director, I used to read these books, and gradually 
began to think I was learning something. I found out later that, 
if the Lord had not taught me, I could have learned little from 
books, for until His Majesty taught it me by experience what I 
learned was nothing at all; I did not even know what I was doing. 
When I began to gain some experience of supernatural prayer 
I mean of the Prayer of Quiet I tried to put aside everything 
corporeal, though I dared not lift up my soul, for, being always 
so wicked, I saw that to do this would be presumption. But I 
thought I was experiencing the presence of God, as proved to be 
true, and I contrived to remain with Him in a state of recollection. 
This type of prayer, if God has a part in it, is full of delight, and 
brings great joy. - And in view of the advantage I was deriving 
from it and the pleasure it was bringing me, no one could have 
made me return to meditation on the Humanity on the con- 
trary, this really seemed to me a hindrance. O Lord of my soul 
and my Good, Jesus Christ crucified! Never once do I recall this 
opinion which I held without a feeling of pain: I believe I was 
committing an act of high treason, though I committed it in 

All my life I had been greatly devoted to Christ (for this 
happened quite recently: by "recently" I mean before the Lord 
granted me these favours these raptures and visions), 2 so I 
remained of this opinion only for a very short time and then 
returned to my habit of continually rejoicing in the Lord. 

1 This chapter, which dwells on the suitability of the Humanity^of Christ as a sub- 
ject for meditation, attacks an idea, very prevalent in St. Teresa's time, that at certain 
stages of mystical progress any such "corporeal" subject, even the mystery of Our 
Lord's Incarnation, should be rigidly excluded by the contemplative. All later 
Spanish mystics follow St. Teresa here and many specifically eulogize or embroider 
this exposition. 

2 "By * recently' . . . visions" is a marginal addition in St. Teresa's hand. 

i 3 8 LIFE [CHAP. 

Especially when communicating, I would wish I had His portrait 
and image always before my eyes, since I could not have it as 
deeply engraven on my soul as I should like. Is it possible, my 
Lord, that for so much as an hour I could have entertained the 
thought that Thou couldst hinder my greatest good? Whence 
have all good things come to me save from Thee? I do not want 
to think that I was to blame for this, for I grieve greatly about it 
and it was certainly a matter of ignorance. So Thou, in Thy 
goodness, wert pleased to bring it to an end by giving me one who 
would cure me of this error, 1 and afterwards by permitting me 
often to see Thee, as I shall relate hereafter, so that I might 
clearly realize how great my error was and tell many people 
of it, as I have done, and set it all down here and now. 

I believe myself that this is the reason why many souls, after 
succeeding in experiencing the Prayer of Union, do not make 
further progress and achieve a very great spiritual freedom. 
There are two reasons, I think, on which I can found my opinion; 
there may, of course, be nothing in it, but what I say I have 
observed in my own experience, for my soul was in a very bad 
way until the Lord gave it light: all the joys it had experienced 
had come in little sips, and, once these were over, xt never ex- 
perienced any companionship, as it did later, at times of trial 
and temptation. One of these reasons is that the soul is somewhat 
lacking in humility and that what it has is so completely disguised 
and hidden as not to be noticed. Who can there be, like myself, 
so miserably proud that, when he has laboured all his life long 
over every imaginable kind of penance and prayer and suffered 
every kind of persecution, he does not count himself very wealthy 
and very abundantly rewarded if the Lord allows him to stand 
with Saint John, at the foot of the Gross? I cannot imagine how it 
can enter anyone's head not to be contented with this; yet I 
myself was not, and I have lost in every respect where I ought 
to have gained. 

It may be that our temperament, or some indisposition, will not 
always allow us to think of the Passion, because of its painfiilness; 
but what can prevent us from being with Him in His Resurrection 
Body, since we have Him so near us in the Sacrament, where He 
is already glorified? Here we shall not see Him wearied and broken 
injbody, streaming with blood, exhausted by journeying, perse- 
cuted by those to whom He was doing such good, disbelieved 
by the Apostles, Certainly it is not always that one can bear to 
think of such great trials as those which He suffered. But here 
we can behold Him free from pain, full of glory, strengthening 
some, encouraging others, ere He ascends to the Heavens. In 

1 [Lewis (p. 187, EU 5) supposes this to be P. Juan de Pnidanos: cf. p. 151, n. 2 below.] 


the Most Holy Sacrament He is our Companion and it would 
seem impossible for Him to leave us for a moment. And yet 
it was possible for me to leave Thee, my Lord, in the hope that 
I might serve Thee better ! True, when I offended Thee, I knew 
Thee not, but to think that, when I did know Thee, I could 
suppose it possible that in such a way I should gain more! How 
mistaken, Lord, was the path I followed! Indeed, I think I 
should be following no path at all hadst Thou not brought me 
back to it. For when I see Thee near me I have seen all blessings. 
No trial has come to me that I cannot gladly bear when I look 
at Thee as Thou stoodest before Thy judges. With so good a Friend, 
so good a Captain at our side, Who came forward first of all 
to suffer, one can bear everything. He helps us; He gives us 
strength; He never fails; He is a true Friend. 

I can see clearly, and since that time have always seen, that 
it is God's will, if we are to please Him and He is to grant us 
great favours, that this should be done through His most sacred 
Humanity, in Whom, His Majesty said, He is well pleased. Very, 
very many times have I learned this by experience: the Lord has 
told it me. I have seen clearly that it is by this door that we must 
enter if we wish His Sovereign Majesty to show us great secrets. 
Therefore, Sir, 1 even if you reach the summit of contemplation 
Your Reverence must seek no other way: that way alone is safe. 
It is through this Lord of ours that all blessings come. He will 
show us the way; we must look at His life that is our best pattern. 
What more do we need than to have at our side so good a Friend, 
Who will not leave us in trials and tribulations, as earthly friends 
do? Blessed is he who loves Him in truth and has Him always at 
his side. Let us consider the glorious Saint Paul, from whose lips 
the name of Jesus seems never to have been absent, because He 
was firmly enshrined in his heart. Since realizing this, I have 
looked carefully at the lives of a number of saints who were great 
contemplatives and I find that they followed exactly the same road. 
Saint Francis, with his stigmata, illustrates this, as does Saint 
Anthony of Padua with the Divine Infant. Saint Bernard, too, 
delighted in Christ's Humanity, and so did Saint Catherine of 
Siena and many others of whom Your Reverence will know 
better than I. 

This withdrawal from the corporeal must doubtless be good, since 
it is advised by such spiritual people, but my belief is that it must 
be practised only when the soul is very proficient : until then, it is 
clear, the Creator must be sought through the creatures. All this 

1 She seems to be addressing P. Garda de Toledo here and the addition of "Sir" 
may be due to the fact that he was the son of the Count of Oropesa. She uses the 
same word when writing to the aristocratic Don Alvaro de Mendoza, Bishop of Avila. 

140 LIFE [CHAP. 

has to do with the grace which the Lord bestows on every soul: 
into that matter I will not enter. What I should like to make clear 
is that Christ's most sacred Humanity must not be reckoned 
among these corporeal objects. Let that point be clearly under- 
stood : I wish I knew how to explain it. 

When God is pleased to suspend all the faculties, as we have 
seen that He does in the modes of prayer already described, it is 
clear that, though we may not desire it to be so, this Presence 
is taken from us. At such a time as that, let this be done. Blessed 
is such a loss, since it brings with it the enjoyment of more than we 
seem to have sacrificed; for the soul can then employ itself 
wholly in loving One Whom the understanding has been striving 
hard to know; it loves what it has not comprehended and rejoices 
in that of which it could not have such great fruition save by losing 
itself, in order, as I say, the better to gain itself. But that we 
should exert care and skill to accustom ourselves not to endeavour 
with all our strength to have always before us and the Lord 
grant it be always ! this most sacred Humanity, it is that, I say, 
which seems to me not to be right. The soul is left, as the phrase 
has it, in the air; for it has nothing to lean upon, however full it 
may think itself to be of God. It is a great thing for us, while we 
live as human beings, to have before us Christ's Humanity, 
This is that other inconvenience to which I have already referred. 
The first, which I was beginning to speak about earlier, is a certain 
lack of humility, a desire on the soul's part to nse before the Lord 
raises it, a dissatisfaction with merely meditating on something 
so precious, and a longing to be Mary before one has laboured 
with Martha. When the Lord wishes one to be Mary, there is no 
need for fear, even on the very first day, but we must go carefully 
about it, as I believe I have said already. This little mote of 
deficient humility, though it seems to be of no importance, does a 
great deal of harm to those who wish to make progress in 

To come now to the second point: we are not angels and we 
have bodies. To want to become angels while we are still on earth, 
and as much on earth as I was, is ridiculous. As a rule, our thoughts 
must have something to lean upon, though sometimes the soul may 
go out from itself and very often may be so full of God that it 
will need no created thing to assist it in recollection. But this is 
not very usual: when we are busy, or suffering persecutions or 
trials, when we cannot get as much quiet as we should like, and 
at seasons of aridity, we have a very good Friend in Christ. We 
look at Him as a Man; we think of His moments of weakness and 
times of trial; and He becomes our Companion. Once we have 
made a habit of thinking of Him in this way, it becomes very easy 


to find Him at our side, though there will come times when it is 
impossible to do either the one thing or the other. For that 
reason it is advisable to do as I have already said: we must not 
show ourselves to be striving after spiritual consolations; come 
what may, the great thing for us to do is to embrace the Cross. 
The Lord was deprived of all consolation; they left Him alone 
in His trials. Let us not leave Him; for His hand will help us 
to rise more effectually than our own efforts; and He will with- 
draw Himself when He sees that it is good for us and when He is 
pleased to draw the soul out of itself, as I have said. 

God is well pleased to see a soul humbly taking His Son as 
Mediator, and yet loving Him so much that, even if His Majesty is 
pleased to raise it to the highest contemplation, as I have said, 
it realizes its unworthiness, and says with Saint Peter: ee Depart 
from me. Lord, for I am a sinful man." 1 I have proved this, for 
it is in this way that God has led my soul. Others, as I have said, 
will take another and a shorter road. What I have learned is this : 
that the entire foundation of prayer must be established in humil- 
ity, and that, the more a soul abases itself in prayer, the higher 
God raises it. I do not remember that He has ever granted me 
any of the outstanding favours of which I shall speak later save 
when I have been consumed with shame by realizing my own 
wickedness; and His Majesty has even managed to help me to 
know myself by revealing to me things which I myself could nDt 
have imagined. I believe myself that, when a soul does anything 
to further its own progress in this Prayer of Union, it may seem 
to be deriving some immediate benefit but will very quickly 
fall again, because it has not laid the proper foundations. Indeed, 
I fear it will never attain to true poverty of spirit, which consists 
in seeking, not comfort or pleasure in prayer (for it has already 
abandoned earthly comforts and pleasures), but consolation in 
trials for the love of Him Who suffered trials all His life long; 
and we must endure these trials, and be calm amidst aridities, 
though we may feel some regret at having to suffer them. They 
should not cause us the unrest and distress which they cause some 
people who think that, if they are not for ever labouring with the 
understanding and striving after feelings of devotion, they are 
going completely astray, as if by so labouring they were meriting 
some great blessing. I do not mean that these things should not 
be sought after, or that we should not be careful how we approach 
the presence of God, but merely that, as I have said elsewhere, 
we must not worry ourselves to death if we cannot think one 
single good thought. We are unprofitable servants : 2 what do we 
suppose it is in our power to accomplish? 

1 St. Luke v, 8. * [St. Luke xvii, 10.] 

142 LIFE [CHAP. 

But it is the Lord's will that we should know this and be like 
the little donkeys that draw the above-described water-wheel. 
Though their eyes are shut and they have no idea what they are 
doing, these donkeys will draw more water than the gardener 
can with all his efforts. After placing ourselves in the hands of 
God, we must walk along this road quite freely. If His Majesty 
is pleased to promote us to be among those of His chamber and 
privy council, we must go with Him willingly; if He is not, we 
must serve Him in lowly offices and not sit down in the best places, 
as I have said elsewhere. God cares for us better than we can care 
for ourselves and He knows of what each of us is capable. What is 
the use of governing oneself if one has surrendered one's whole 
will to God? In my view this is much less tolerable here than in 
the first degree of prayer and does much greater harm: these 
blessings are supernatural. If a man has a bad voice, however 
often he forces himself to sing, he will never make it a good one; 
whereas, if God is pleased to give him a good one, he has no need 
to practise singing. 1 Let us, then, continually beseech Him to 
grant us favours, resigned in spirit and yet trusting in God's 
greatness. Since the soul is given leave to sit at Christ's feet, let it 
contrive not to stir thence; let it remain where it will; and let 
it imitate the Magdalen, and, when it is strong, God will lead 
it into the desert. 

Your Reverence must be satisfied with this until you find 
someone who has more experience and more knowledge of the 
matter than I. When people tell you that they are beginning to 
taste of God, do not believe them if they think they are making 
more progress and receiving more consolations by making efforts 
of their own. Oh, how well God can jreveal Himself, when it is 
His will to do so, without these puny efforts of ours ! Do what we 
may, He transports the spirit as easily as a giant might take up a 
straw, and it is useless for us to resist Him. What a strange kind 
of belief is this, that, when God has willed that a toad should fly, 
He should wait for it to do so by its own efforts. And it seems to 
me that for our spirits to be lifted up is a more difficult and 
troublesome matter even than this if God does not lift them up 
for us. For they are weighed down by the earth and by a thousand 
impediments, and the fact that they want to fly is of no help 
to them; for, though flying comes more naturally to them than 
to a toad, they are so completely sunk in the mire that through 
their own fault they have lost the ability. 

1 [The exact sense of this clause is doubtful. Dor voces means to cry or shout aloud 
and the meaning 1 may well be "he has no need to .make a fuss about it". I translate 
"practise singing" only out of deference to the context. P. Silveno has "He" for 
"he" : if we adopt this, we must read: "He [God] has no need to proclaim the fact." 
But this seems to me a definitely inferior interpretation.] 


I will conclude^ then, by saying that, whenever we think o 
Christ, we should remember with what love He has bestowec 
all these favours upon us, and how great is the love which Goc 
has revealed to us in giving us such a pledge of the love which H< 
bears us; for love begets love. And though we may be onh 
beginners, and very wicked, let us strive ever to bear this in mine 
and awaken our own love, for, if once the Lord grants us th< 
favour of implanting this love in our hearts, everything will b< 
easy for us and we shall get things done in a very short time anc 
with very little labour. May His Majesty give us this love, sina 
He knows how much we need it, for the sake of the love whicf 
He bore us and through His glorious Son, Who revealed it to us ai 
such great cost to Himself. Amen. 

One thing which I should like to ask Your Reverence is this 
How is it, when the Lord begins to grant a soul such sublime 
favours as that of bringing it to perfect contemplation, that il 
does not, as by rights it should, become perfect all at once? B) 
rights there is no doubt that it should, for anyone who receives 
so great a favour ought not to seek any further comforts on earth, 
Why is it, then, that raptures, and the soul's growing habituation 
to the receiving of favours, seem to produce results of great and 
growing sublimity and the more detached the soul becomes 
the sublimer they are when the Lord might leave the sou] 
completely sanctified in the same moment that He comes to it? 
How is it that it is only later, as time goes on, that the same Lord 
leaves it perfect in the virtues? I want to know the reason of this, 
for I am quite ignorant of it. What I do know is that there is a 
great difference between the degree of fortitude bestowed by God 
in the early stages of rapture, when this favour lasts no longer 
than the twinkling of an eye and, save for the effects which it 
leaves, is hardly noticed, and in the later stages, when it is 
bestowed in more bountiful measure. And I often think that the 
reason may be that the soul does not at once completely prepare 
itself for this, but that the Lord gradually trains it, and gives it 
determination and manly strength so that it may trample every- 
thing under its feet. It was thus that He dealt with the Magda- 
len, doing His work in her very quickly; and it is thus that He 
deals with other people, according to the way in which they allow 
His Majesty to work. We cannot bring ourselves to realize that 
even in this life God rewards us a hundredfold. 

I have also been thinking of the comparison which follows. 
Assuming that what is given to the most advanced soul is the same 
as what is given to beginners, it is like food shared by many people; 
those Who eat very little of it experience the pleasant taste only 
for a short time; those who eat more derive some sustenance 

144 LIFE [CHAP. 

from it; while those who eat a great deal derive life and strength. 
It is possible to eat of this food of life so frequently and with such 
satisfaction as to derive no pleasure from eating any other. 
For the soul sees how much good it is deriving from it and its 
palate is now so completely accustomed to its sweetness that it 
would rather not live than have to eat any other food, for that 
would do nothing but spoil the pleasant taste left by the good food. 
Again, the companionship of good people does not afford us such 
profitable conversation in one day as in many; and if we have the 
help of God and are long enough in their company, we may 
become like them. In fact, everything depends upon His Majesty's 
good pleasure and upon the person on whom He wishes to bestow 
this favour. But it is very important that anyone who is beginning 
to receive it should resolve to detach himself from everything 
else and hold it in due esteem. 

I think, too, that His Majesty goes about seeking to prove 
who the people are that love Him whether this person does, 
or that person and reveals Himself to us with the sublimest 
joy, so as to quicken our faith, if it is dead, concerning what He 
will give us. "See," He says, "this is but a drop in a vast sea of 
blessings"; for He leaves nothing undone for those He loves, and, 
when He sees that they accept His gifts, He gives and gives 
Himself. He loves every one who loves Him and how well loved 
He is 1 and how good a Friend! Oh, Lord of my soul, if only 
one had words to explain what Thou givest to those that trust in 
Thee, and what is lost by those who reach this state and yet do 
not give themselves to Thee! 2 It is not Thy will, Lord, that this 
should be so, for Thou doest more than this when Thou comest to 
a lodging as wretched as mine. Blessed be Thou for ever and ever! 

I beseech Your Reverence once more, if you discuss these 
things that I have written about prayer with spiritual persons, 
to be sure they are really spiritual. For if they know only one 
path, or have gone half way and then remained where they are, 
they will not be able to discover what it all means. There are 
some, of course, whom God leads by a very exalted road; and 
these think that others can make progress in the same way by 
quieting the understanding and making no use of corporeal aids 
to devotion but if such persons act thus they will remain as dry 
as sticks. There are others who have attained a certain degree 
of quiet and at once think that, as they have done this, they can 
do everything else. But, instead of gaining in this way, they will 
lose, as I have said. So experience and discretion are necessary 
in everything. May the Lord give us these of His goodness. 

1 [Or, "and how well loved is he who loves Him . . . !"] 
*[Lit.: "and keep themselves (to themselves)."] 



Resumes the description of the course of her life and tells how and by what 

means she began to aim at greater perfection. It is of advantage 

for persons who are concerned in the direction of souls that practise 

prayer to know how they must conduct themselves in the early stages. 

The profit that she herself gained thereby. 

now return to the place where I left off the description of 
my life, for I have digressed longer, I think, than I ought 
in order that what is to come may be the better understood. 
From this point onward, I am speaking of another and a new 
book I mean, of another and a new life. Until now the life I 
was describing was my own; but the life I have been living since 
I began to expound these matters concerning prayer is the life 
which God has been living in me or so it has seemed to me. For 
I believe it to be impossible in so short a time to escape from such 
wicked deeds and habits. Praised be the Lord, Who has delivered 
me from myself! 

Now when I began to avoid occasions of sin and to devote 
myself more to prayer, the Lord began to bestow favours upon 
me and it looked as though He were desirous that I should wish 
to receive them. His Majesty began to grant me quite frequently 
the Prayer of Quiet, and often, too, the Prayer of Union, which 
lasted for a long time. As there have been cases recently in which 
women have been subjected by the devil to serious illusions and 
deceptions, 1 1 began to be afraid, for the delight and the sweetness 
which I felt were so great and often I could not help feeling them. 
But on the other hand I was conscious of a very deep inward 
assurance that this was of God, especially when I was engaged in 
prayer, and I found that I was the better for it and developed 
greater fortitude. But as soon as I became a little distracted, I 
would grow afraid again and begin to wonder if it was the devil 
who wanted to suspend my understanding, and make me believe 
it was a good thing, so that he might deprive me of mental 
prayer, and prevent me from thinking of the Passion and making 
use of my understanding. It seemed to me that I was losing rather 
than gaining, but I did not understand the matter properly. 

As His Majesty, however, was now pleased to give me light so 
that I should not offend Him and should understand how much 

1 Such were the notorious Sor Magdalena de la Cruz of Cordoba [and Maria de la 
Visitacion, the Lisbon prioress who was credited with having received the Stigmata; 
cf. SSJVf.,!, 37-8]. 

146 LIFE [CHAP. 

I owed Him, my fear increased, to such an extent that it made me 
seek diligently after spiritual persons with whom to discuss this. 
I already knew of some, for the Fathers of the Company of Jesus 
had come here, 1 and, though I was unacquainted with any of 
them, I was attracted to them by my knowledge of their method 
of life and prayer alone. But I did not consider myself ^ worthy 
to speak to them or strong enough to obey them, and this made 
me still more afraid; for I felt that it would be unthinkable 2 
foi rne to discuss these matters with them and yet remain as I was. 

I went on for some time in this way, until, after experiencing 
much inward strife and many fears, I determined to have a 
talk with a spiritual person, to ask him what that kind of prayer 
was which I was practising and to make it clear to me if I was 
going astray. I also determined to do all I could not to offend 
God, for, as I have said, my lack of fortitude, of which I was so 
conscious, made me very timid. God help me, what a great 
mistake I was making by giving up what was good when I wanted 
to be good all the time! The devil must think this very important 
at the outset of a soul's growth in virtue, for I was quite unable 
to take myself in hand. 3 He knows that the great means of 
progress for a soul is converse with friends of God, and thus 
it was for this reason that I could not come to a decision. First 
of all, I waited till I had amended my life, just as I had done 
when I gave up prayer. It may be that I should never have 
amended it, for I was such a slave to my little bad habits that I 
could not bring myself to realize that they were bad at all : I 
needed the help of others, who would take me by the hand and 
raise me up. Blessed be the Lord that, in the end, the first hand 
to raise me was His ! 

When I found that my fear was getting such a hold over me, 
because I was progressing in the practice of prayer, it seemed to 
me that there must either be something very good about this or 
something terribly bad; for I was quite sure that my experiences 
were supernatural because sometimes I was unable to resist 
them, nor could I come by them whenever I wanted to. I 
thought to myself that there was nothing I could do but keep a 
clear conscience and avoid all occasions of even venial sin; 
for, if it was the Spirit of God at work, I was obviously the gainer, 
whereas, if it was the devil, he could do me little harm provided 

l Itwasin 1554 that the Society of Jesus founded the College of St. Giles (San Gil) at 
Avila, to which foundation St. Teresa owed a great deal of the spiritual help which she 
received from the Jesuit Fathers. 

8 [Cosa recta. Lit. : "a stout (tough, hard) thing " As we might savin conversation: 
"A little too strong."] 

3 [Aea&urto conmtgo. A stronger rendering, such as "put an end to it all'% would 
not be out of place.] 


I strove to please the Lord and not to offend Him in fact, the 
devil could not fail to be the loser. Having resolved upon this, 
and begging God all the time to help me, I strove for some days 
to live in this way, but found that my soul was not strong enough 
by itself to achieve such a high degree of perfection; for I was 
attached in certain ways to things which, though not wrong in 
themselves, were sufficient to spoil all my efforts. 

They told me of a learned cleric who lived in that place, and 
whose goodness and holy life the Lord was beginning to make 
known among the people. 1 I got to know him through a saintly 
gentleman who lived there also. 2 This gentleman is married, 
but his life is so exemplary and virtuous, and so outstanding in 
prayer and charity, that everything he does is resplendent with 
his goodness and perfection. And with good reason, for many 
souls have been greatly benefited by him: such great talents 
has he that, although his being married is anything but a help 
to him, he cannot do otherwise than use them. He is a man of 
great intelligence, and very gentle with everybody; and his 
conversation is never wearisome, but so pleasant and gracious, 
not to say upright and holy, that it gives great delight to those 
with whom he has to do. He directs all he does to the great good 
of the souls with whom he holds converse and he seems to have no 
other aim than to do whatever he can for everyone he meets 
and to give everyone pleasure. 

Well, so diligent on my behalf was this blessed and holy man 
that he seems to me to have been the beginning of my soul's 
salvation. The humility he has shown me is astounding; for 
he has practised prayer, I believe, for nearly forty years perhaps 
two or three years less and the life he lives, I think, is as nearly 
perfect as his married state permits. His wife, too, is so great a 
servant of God and so charitable a woman that she is no hindrance 
to him: indeed, she was chosen to be the wife of one who God 
knew would be a great servant of His. 

Some of their relatives were married to some of mine 3 and 
I also had a good deal to do with another great servant of God who 
was married to one of my cousins. It was in this way that I 
arranged for this cleric who, as I say, was such a servant of God 
to come to speak with me: he was a great friend of this gentle- 
man and I thought of having him as my confessor and director. 

1 This was Caspar Daza, a pious and learned priest who for some time was St. 
Teresa's confessor and helped her a great deal with the foundation of St. Joseph's. 
He died in 1592. 

2 Don Francisco de Salcedo, an Avilan gentleman whose wife, Dona Mencia del 
Aguila, was a cousin of the wife of Don Pedro de Gepeda, St. Teresa's uncle (cf. 
p. 23, above). He had studied theology at the Dominican College of St Thomas* 
in Avila, and after the death of his wife, took Holy Orders. He died in 1580. 

8 One of these links is mentioned in the preceding note* 

148 LIFE [CHAP. 

When he had brought him to talk to me, I, in the greatest confu- 
sion at finding myself in the presence of so holy a man, spoke 
to him about my soul and my method of prayer, but he would 
not hear my confession, saying that he was very much occupied, 
as indeed he was. He began with the holy determination to 
treat me as if I were strong (and so I ought to have been, con- 
sidering the extent to which, as he saw, I practised prayer), 
so that I should give no offence of any kind to God. But when I 
saw how determinedly he was attacking these little habits of 
mine which I have already mentioned, and that I had not 
courage enough to live more perfectly, I became distressed, and, 
realizing that he was treating me in spiritual matters as though I 
were going to become perfect immediately, I saw that I should 
have to be much more carefuL 

In due course I realized that I should not improve by using 
the means which he employed with me, for they were meant 
for a soul which was much more perfect, and I, though advanced 
in Divine favours, was, as regards virtues and mortification, 
still quite a beginner. Really, if I had had nobody else to consult, 
I think my soul would never have shown any improvement, 
for the distress which it caused me to find that I was not doing 
what he told me, and felt unable to do so, was sufficient to make 
me lose hope and give up the whole thing. I sometimes marvel 
that, though he was a person with a particular gift for leading 
beginners to God, it was not God's will that he should under- 
stand my own soul or desire to take it into his charge. But I see 
now that it was all for my good, so that I should get to know 
and consult people as holy as those of the Company of Jesus. 

So I made an arrangement with this saintly gentleman that 
he should sometimes come to see me. It showed what great 
humility he had, that he should have been willing to have to do 
with anyone as wicked as I. He begaii to pay me visits and to 
encourage me and to tell me not to think that I could get rid of 
all my troubles in a day but to be sure that God would help me 
to get rid of them by degrees. He himself, he said, had for many 
years been troubled by some quite trivial imperfections, which 
he had never been able to get rid of. O humility, what great 
blessings dost thou bring to those who possess thee and also to those 
who have to do with the humble-minded! This saint (for so I 
think I can rightly call him) would tell me about his own weak- 
nesses or what his humility led him to think of as such so 
that he might help me. Considered in relation to his state of life, 
they were neither faults nor imperfections, though they would 
be great faults in the life of a religious like myself. I am not 
saying this without a reason; I seem to be enlarging upon small 


points, and yet these are most important if a soul which is not 
yet fledged, as they say, is to begin to make progress and learn 
to fly, though no one will believe this who has not experienced it. 
And as I hope in God that Your Reverence will benefit many 
souls, I say this here, for my whole salvation was due to the fact 
that this gentleman knew how to treat me and had the humility 
and charity necessary for dealing with me and could put up with 
me when he saw that in some respects I was not amending my 
life. Gradually and discreetly he showed me ways of vanquishing 
the devil. So great was the love which I began to bear him that 
I found nothing more restful than seeing him, though there were 
few days when I was able to do so. Whenever a long time passed 
without a visit from him I would at once become very much 
worried, thinking that he was not coming to see me because I was 
so wicked. 

When he began to realize the seriousness of my imperfections, 
which may even have been sins (though I improved after I got to 
know him), and when, in order to obtain light from him, I told 
him of the graces which God was bestowing upon me, he warned 
me that these two things were not consistent, that such favours 
were given to persons who were very far advanced and greatly 
mortified, and that he could not help having misgivings lest in 
some of these matters an evil spirit might be at work in me, 
though he was not sure. But he told me to think well over 
my experiences in prayer, so far as I understood them, and to 
tell him about them. But that was the difficulty: I simply could 
not describe these experiences; it is only quite recently that God 
has granted me the grace of being able to understand their nature 
and to describe them. 

When he said this to me, fearful as I already was, I was greatly 
distressed and wept sorely; for I really desired to please God 
and I could not persuade myself that this was the work of the 
devil, but I was afraid lest on account of my great sins God might 
be blinding me so that I could not realize it. Looking through 
books to see if I could learn how to describe my method of prayer, 
I found in one, called The Ascent of the Mount,* which describes 
the union of the soul with God, all the symptoms I had when I 
was unable to think of anything. It was exactly this that I was 
always saying that when I was experiencing that type of prayer 
I could think of nothing. So I marked the relevant passages 
and gave him the book, in. order that he and that other cleric 
to whom I have referred, a holy man and a servant of God, 

1 [She refers to the Ascent of Mount Sion, published at Seville, in 1535, by a Fran- 
ciscan lay-brother, Bernardino de Laredo. An account of Laredo and his book will 
be found in SJSM., II, 41-76.] 

150 LIFE [CHAP. 

should look at it and tell me what I ought to do. If they thought 
it well, I would give up prayer altogether, for why should I run 
into these dangers? If after almost twenty years' experience of 
prayer I had gained nothing, but had been deluded by the 
devil, surely it was better for me not to pray at all though this 
would also have been very difficult, for I had already discovered 
what my soul was like without prayer. Whichever way I looked, 
then, I was beset by trials. I was like a person who has fallen 
into a river: whatever the direction he takes, he is afraid the dan- 
ger will be greater and yet he is almost drowning. This is a very 
great trial, and I have experienced many such, as I shall say 
later: it may seem unimportant but it may possibly be of great 
advantage to learn how spirituality is to be tested. 

And certainly this is a grievous trial to experience and one 
needs to be careful women especially so, since we are very weak, 
and may come to great harm if we are told in so many words 
that we are being deluded by the devil. The matter should be 
very carefully considered and women protected from all possible 
dangers. They should be advised to keep their experiences very 
secret and it is well that their advisers should observe secrecy 
too. I speak of this from knowledge, for I have been caused great 
distress by the indiscretion of certain persons with whom I have 
discussed my experiences in prayer. By talking about them to 
each other they have done me great harm, divulging things 
which should have been kept very secret, for tiey are not meant 
for everyone to know, and it looked as though I were publishing 
them myself. The fault, I believe, was not theirs: the Lord 
permitted it so that I might suffer, I do not mean that they 
divulged what I had told them in confessidh, but none the less, 
as they were people whom I had consulted about my fears, so 
that I might obtain light from them, I thought they ought to 
have kept silence. In spite of this, however, 1 never dared to hide 
anything from such persons. I think, then, that women should 
be counselled with great discretion, and encouraged, and the righs 
moment should be awaited, at which the Lord will help them at 
He has helped me: had He not done so, I should have come to 
great harm, so timorous was I and so fearful. Considering the 
serious heart trouble from which I was suffering, I am amazed 
that this did not greatly harm me. 

Well, when I had given him the book, together with the best 
general account of my life and sins that I could (not in confession, 
as he was a layman, but I made it very clear to him how wicked 
I was), these two servants of God 1 considered with great charity 
and love what would be best for me. At length they gave me 

1 Salcedo and Daza. 


the reply which I had awaited with such dread. During the 
intervening days I had begged many persons to commend me to 
God and had prayed continually. But, when this gentleman 
came to me, it was to tell me with great distress that to the best of 
their belief my trouble came from the devil, and the wisest thing 
for me to do would be to discuss it with a Father of the Company 
of Jesus, who would come to see me if I asked him to do so and 
told him what I needed. I could then give him a perfectly 
clear description of my whole life and spiritual state in the form 
of a general confession; and through the virtue of the Sacrament 
of Confession God would give him more light on my case: these 
Fathers were men of great experience in spiritual matters. I 
ought not, they said, to depart in the very least from whatever he 
might say, because if I had no one to direct me I was in great 

This caused me such distress and fear that I did not know 
what to do : I could only weep. But while I was in an oratory, in 
great affliction, and not knowing what was to become of me, I 
read in a book, which it seemed as if the Lord had put into my 
hands, those words of Saint Paul, that God is very faithful and 
never allows people who love Him to be deluded by the devil. 1 
This was the greatest comfort to me. I began to think over my 
general confession and to write down all my good and bad points 
and prepare the clearest account of my life that I possibly could, 
leaving nothing unsaid. I remember that, after writing it, I 
found so many bad points and so little that was good that it 
caused me the greatest distress and affliction. I was also troubled 
that my sisters in the convent should see me consulting such 
saintly people as those of the Company of Jesus; for I was afraid 
of my wickedness and thought that I should now be obliged to 
abandon it and to give up my pastimes, and that if I did not do 
so I should grow worse; and so I arranged with the sacristan 
and portress that they should not talk about it to anyone. How- 
ever, this was of little use, because when I was sent for there was 
someone at the door who talked about it all over the convent. 
What a -lot of obstacles and fears the devil sets before those who 
are anxious to approach God! 

I told that servant of God 2 all about my soul (and he was 
indeed a servant of God and a very prudent one, too) ; and, being 
well versed in the subject, he told me what was wrong and greatly 
encouraged me. He said that I was very evidently being led by 

1 i Corinthians x. 13. "And God is faithful, who \vill not suffer you to be tempted 
above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you 
may be able to bear it." 

2 This was P. Juan de Ptddanos, who was St. Teresa's confessor for two months 
and probably the first Jesuit confessor she ever had. He died at Valladolid, in 1597. 

152 LIFE [CHAP. 

the Spirit of God and that I needed to return to my prayer: I 
was not working upon a good foundation, nor had I begun to 
understand the nature of mortification (which was true: I 
do not believe I even understood the meaning of the word). 
I must on no account give up prayer; on the contrary, since God 
was granting me such special favours, I must work hard at it. 
How did I know, he asked me, that the Lord was not desirous 
of using me in order to help a great number of people and 
perhaps to do other things (it seems now that he was prophesying 
what the Lord afterwards did with me) ? I should be very much 
to blame, he added, if I were not responsive to the favours that 
God was showing me. Throughout, as it seemed to me, the Holy 
Spirit was speaking through him, for the good of my soul, to 
judge from the way that his words impressed themselves upon it. 

He made me very much ashamed; and led me along paths 
which seemed to make me quite a different person. What a great 
thing it is to understand a soul! He told me that my daily prayer 
should be based upon one of the incidents of the Passion, and 
that I should get all I could out of that incident, think only of 
Christ's Humanity and as far as possible resist the desire for 
recollection and consolations; these I was not to indulge again 
until he gave me further instructions. 

He left me comforted and strengthened. The Lord helped us 
both, enabled him to understand my spiritual condition and 
showed him how to direct me. I made a determination not to 
depart in any way from what he commanded me and to that 
determination I have remained true until this day. Praised be 
the Lord, Who has given me grace to obey my confessors, however 
imperfectly! These have almost always been chosen from the 
blessed Fathers of the Company of Jesus, although, as I say, I have 
followed them imperfectly. My soul began to grow notably 
better, as I shall now relate. 


Continues the subject already begun. Describes how her soul profited 
more and more after she began to obey, how little it availed her to 
resist the favours of God and how His Majesty went on giving them 
to her in increasing measure. 

After I had made this confession my soul became so amenable 
that I thought there could be nothing which I should not be 
prepared to do; and so I began to make many changes in my 


habits, although my confessor did not press me to do so and in fact 
seemed to trouble about it all very little. But this moved me the 
more, for he led me by the way of love for God, which brought me, 
not oppression, as it would if I had not done it out of love, but 
freedom. I remained in that state for nearly two months, doing 
all I could to resist the favours and graces of God. The change 
in me was manifest even superficially, for the Lord was already 
beginning to encourage me to suffer things which persons who 
knew me, and even the nuns in my own house, 1 considered and 
described as extreme. And they were right: these things were 
indeed extreme by comparison with what I had been doing before. 
But they fell short of the obligations of my habit and profession. 

By resisting the consolations and favours of God I gained this 
that His Majesty Himself taught rne. For previously I had thought 
that, if I was to receive favours in prayer, I must go apart by 
myself a great deal, and so I had hardly dared to stir. Then I 
began to see how little this had to do with it; the more I tried 
to think of other things, the more completely the Lord enveloped 
me in that sweetness and glory until I felt so completely sur- 
rounded by it that I could not flee from it in any direction; 
and thus matters continued. I was so much concerned about 
this that it caused me distress. The Lord, however, was much 
more concerned, during those two months, to grant me favours 
and to reveal Himself to me more than He had been wont to do, 
so that I might the better understand that resistance was no longer 
in my power. I began to conceive a new love for the most sacred 
Humanity. My prayers now began to take shape like an edifice 
with solid foundations, and I grew fonder of penances, which I had 
neglected because of my frequent indispositions. 

That holy man 2 who heard my confessions told me that there 
were certain things which could not hurt me; and suggested that 
God might perhaps be giving me ill-health just because I did 
not perform penances that is, that His Majesty was being 
pleased to give me the penances Himself. My confessor ordered 
me to practise certain mortifications which I did not find very 
agreeable. But I performed them all, because his commands 
seemed to me to come feom the Lord, and I thanked him for 
giving them to me so that I could obey Him. Any offence, 
however slight, which I might commit against God I would feel 
in my soul so deeply that if I had anything I did not need 3 I 
could not become recollected again until it had been taken away. 
I prayed earnestly that the Lord would hold me by His hand, 

1 The Convent of the Incarnation, Avila. * P. Juan de PrAdanos. 

8 [Ltt. "any superfluous thing" presumably referring to small comforts ox 

154 LIFE [CHAP. 

and, now that I was in touch with His servants, would grant me 
grace not to turn back. For to do this, I thought, would be a great 
failing, since it would detract from their credit. 

During this period the town was visited by Father Francis, 
who was Duke of Gandia but some years before had given up 
everything and entered the Company of Jesus. 1 My confessor 
and the gentleman I have spoken of arranged for him to come 
and see me so that I might talk to him and tell him about my 
experiences in prayer, as they knew him to be very proficient 
in this and to be receiving great favours and graces from God, 
as rewards in this life for all that he had given up for Him. When 
he had heard my story, he told me that I was being led by the 
Spirit of God and that he thought I should not be doing right to 
resist Him further. It had been right to do so, he said, uiLtil 
now; but he suggested that I should always begin my prayers 
with a meditation on one of the incidents of the Passion, and, 
if the Lord should then transport my spirit, I should not resist 
Him but should allow His Majesty to have it and make no effort 
to keep it back. He gave me this medicine and counsel as one 
who had himself made great progress: in this matter there is 
much potency in experience. He said that it would be a mistake 
for me to resist any longer. I was greatly comforted and so 
was this gentleman: he was delighted that the Father had said 
I was being led by God and he continued to help and advise 
me to the best of his ability, which was very great. 

About this time my confessor was transferred elsewhere. I was 
very sorry for this, for I thought I should be bound to grow wicked 
again, not supposing that it would be possible to find another like 
hum. My soul was as if in. a desert; I grew most disconsolate 
and fearful; and I did not know what would become of me. But 
a relative pf mine arranged for me to go and stay with her and 
I at once set about getting another confessor from the Company. 
It was the Lord's good pleasure that I should become friendly 
with a widowed lady of good family, 2 who was much given to 

1 St. Francis Borgia [Sp., Borja] had been appointed Commissary of the Society 
of Jesus in Spain and it was in this capacity that, on several occasions, he visited the 
College of St. Giles at Avila. The visit on which he made the acquaintance of St. 
Teresa took place in 1557. The Duchess of Gandia, who was one of the witnesses 
when evidence was being taken previously to her beatification, deposed that she had 
"often heard the Duke of Gandfa, Father Francis of Borja, who became General 
of the Society of Jesus, speak of the spirituality, life and sanctity of the Mother Teresa 
of Jesus." 

2 Dona Guiomar (or Jer6nima) de UUoa. Both her parents, Don Pedro de Ulloa 
and Dona Aldonza de Guzman, bore illustrious names. Left a widow at the age of 
twenty-five, she devoted herself to a life of virtue, and helped St. Teresa, whom she 
first met in 1557, with her early work in connection with the Discalced Reform. 
Cf. St. Teresa's testimony to her in a letter to her brother Lorenzo, dated December 
31, 1561 ^Letters (St.), I, 4), where she describes their friendship as closer than one 
between sisters. 


prayer, and had a great deal to do with these Fathers. She 
arranged for me to make my confessions to her own confessor and I 
stayed in her house for some days; she lived quite near. I was 
delighted at getting into close touch with the Fathers, for the 
mere realization of the holiness of their way of life brought my 
soul great benefit 

This Father 1 began to lead me to greater perfection. He told 
me that I ought to leave nothing undone so as to become entirely 
pleasing to God, and he treated me with great skill, yet also very 
gently, for my soul was not at all strong, but very sensitive, 
especially as regards abandoning certain friendships which were 
not actually leading me to offend God. There was a great deal of 
affection beneath these and it seemed to me that if I abandoned 
them I should be sinning through ingratitude; so I asked him why 
it was necessary for me to be ungrateful if I was not offending 
God. He told me to commend the matter to God for a few days, 
and to recite the hymn Veni, Creator, and I should be enlightened 
as to which was the better thing to do. So I spent the greater part 
of one whole day in prayer; and then, beseeching the Lord that 
He would help me to please Him in everything, I began the hymn. 
While I was reciting it, there came to me a transport so sudden 
that it almost carried me away; I could make no mistake about 
this, so clear was it. This was the first time that the Lord had 
granted me the favour of any kind of rapture. I heard these 
words: "I will have thee converse now, not with men, but with 
angels/' This simply amazed me, for my soul was greatly moved 
and the words were spoken to me in the depths of the spirit. 
For this reason they made me afraid, though on the other hand 
they brought me a great deal of comfort, which remained with 
me after the fear caused by the strangeness of the experience 
had vanished. 

The words have come true: never since then have I been 
able to maintain firm friendship save with people who I believe 
love God and try to serve Him, nor have I derived comfort 
from any others or cherished any private affection for them* It 
has not been in my own power to do so; and it has made no 
difference if the people have been relatives or friends. Unless 
I know that a person loves God or practises prayer, it is a real 
cross to me to have to do with him. I really believe this is the 
absolute truth. 

1 P. Baltasar Alvarez, who was one of the best directors St. Teresa ever had, 
though at times, as we shall see in Chap. XXVIII, he was somewhat hesitating 
and timid in his treatment of her. He acted as her confessor from 1559 to 1564, 
and in 1567, while at Medina del Campo, was of great use to her in connection with 
the foundation which she made there. He died on July 25, 1580, at the age of 
only forty-seven. 

156 LIFE [CHAP. 

Since that day I have been courageous enough to give up 
everything for the sake of God, Who in that moment for I 
think it happened in no more than a moment was pleased 
to make His servant another person. So there was no need for my 
confessor to give me any further commands. When he had 
found me so much attached to these friendships, he had not 
ventured to tell me definitely to abandon them. He had to 
wait until the Lord took it in hand, as He did. I did not think at 
first that I could ever give them up, for I had tried it already, and 
it had caused me such great distress that I had put the idea aside, 
as the friendships did not appear unseemly. But now the Lord 
set me free and gave me strength to carry my resolution into 
practice. So I told my confessor this and gave up everything, 
exactly as he had instructed me to do. And when the persons with 
whom I had been intimate saw how determined I was it caused 
them great edification. , 

Blessed for ever be God, Who in one moment gave the freedom 
which, despite all the efforts I had been making for so many 
years, I had never been able to attain, though sometimes I had 
done such violence to myself that it badly affected my health. 
As it was the work of One Who is almighty and the true Lord 
of all, it caused me no distress. 


Discusses the method and manner in which these locutions bestowed by God 
on the soul are apprehended without being heard and also certain 
kinds of deception which may occur here and the way to recognize them. 
This chapter is most profitable for anyone who finds himself at this 
stage of prayer because the exposition is very good and contains much 

It will be well, I think, to explain the nature of the locutions 
which God bestows upon the soul, and the soul's experiences 
on receiving them, so that Your Reverence may understand this. 
For, since the occasion I have described 1 on which the Lord 
granted me this favour, it has become quite a common experience 
even to this day, as will be seen in what is to come. Though 
perfectly formed, the words are not heard with the bodily ear; 
yet they are understood much more clearly than if they were so 
heard, and, however determined one's resistance, it is impossible 
to fail to hear them. For when, on the natural plane, we do not 

1 Chap. XIX (p. 115, above). The date of this first locution, can be fixed only 
approximately, between 1555 and 1557 

XXV] LIFE 157 

wish to hear, we can close our ears, or attend to something else, 
with the result that, although we may hear, we do not understand. 
But when God talks in this way to the soul, there is no such 
remedy: I have to listen, whether I like it or no, and my under- 
standing has to devote itself so completely to what God wishes me 
to understand that whether I want to listen or not makes no 
difference. For, as He Who is all-powerful wills us to understand, 
we have to do what He wills; and He reveals Himself as our true 
Lord. I have long experience of this; I was so much afraid of it 
that I kept up my resistance for almost two years and sometimes 
I still try to resist, though with little success. 

I should like to describe the different kinds of deception 
which may occur here, though I think anyone who has much 
experience will seldom, if ever, be deceived. But, as considerable 
experience is necessary before this state can be reached, I will 
explain the difference between locutions coming from good 
spirits and from evil ones and how, as may happen, the appre- 
hension can be caused by the understanding itself or by the spirit 
conversing with itself (I do not know if that is possible, but I was 
thinking that it was, this very day)* With regard to cases in which 
the locution is of God, I have a great deal of evidence, as I have 
heard such voices two or three years beforehand and all that they 
have said has come true not a single one of them so far has 
proved deceptive. And there are other things in which the Spirit 
of God can be clearly perceived, as will be said later. 

Sometimes, I think, a person who has commended some matter 
to God with great affection and concern will believe he hears 
something telling him if it will be granted him or not that is 
quite possible though, once he has really heard anything of the 
kind, he will recognize it immediately, for there is a great differ- 
ence between true and false. If it is something invented by the 
understanding, subtle as the invention may be, he realizes that it 
is the understanding which is making up the words and uttering 
them, for it is just as if a person were making up a speech or as if 
he were listening to what someone else was saying to him. The 
understanding mil realize that it is not listening, but being active; 
and the words it is inventing are fantastic and indistinct and have 
not the clarity of true locutions. In such a case we have the power 
to divert our attention from them, just as we are able to stop 
speaking and become silent, whereas with true locutions no such 
diversion is possible. A further indication, which is surer than 
any other, is that these false locutions effect nothing, whereas, 
when the Lord speaks, the words are accompanied by effects, 
and although the words may be, not of devotion, but rather of 
reproof, they prepare the soul and make it ready and move it to 

158 LIFE [CHAP. 

affection, give it light and make it happy and tranquil; and, if 
it has been afflicted with aridity and turmoil and unrest, the Lord 
frees it as with His own hand, or more effectively even than that; 
for He appears to wish it to realize His power and the efficacy of 
His words. 

It seems to me that the difference is like that between speaking 
and listening neither greater nor less. For while I am speaking, 
as I have said, my understanding is composing what I am saying, 
whereas, if I am being spoken to, I am doing nothing but listen 
and it costs me no labour. In the one case it is as if the thing is 
there but we cannot be sure what it is, any more than if we were 
half asleep. In the other case there is a voice which is so clear 
that not a syllable of what it says is lost. And sometimes it happens 
that the understanding and the soul are so perturbed and dis- 
tracted that they could not put together a single sentence and yet 
the soul hears long set speeches addressed to it which it could not 
have composed, even if completely recollected. And at the first 
word, as I say, it is completely changed. How, especially if it is 
in rapture and the faculties are suspended, can the soul under- 
stand things that had never come into its mind before? How can 
they come at a time when the memory is hardly working and the 
imagination is, as it were, in a stupor? 

It should be noted that we never, I think, see visions or hear 
these words at a time when the soul is in union during an actual 
state of rapture, for then, as I have already explained (I think 
it was in writing of the Second Water), all the faculties are wholly 
lost, and at that time I do not believe there is any seeing, hearing 
or understanding at all. For the soul is wholly in the power 
of another, and during that period, which is very short, I do not 
think the Lord leaves it freedom for anything. It is of when this 
short period has passed, and the soul is still enraptured, that I am 
speaking; for the faculties, though not lost, are in such a state 
that they can do practically nothing; they are, as it were, absorbed 
and incapable of coherent reasoning. There are so many reasoning 
processes by which we may tell the difference between these types 
of locution that, although we may be mistaken once, we shall not 
be so often, 

I mean that, if a soul is experienced and alert, it will see the 
difference very clearly; for, apart from other characteristics 
which prove the truth of what I have said, human locutions 
produce no effect upon the soul and it does not accept them (as 
it has to accept Divine locutions, even against its will) or give 
them credence: on the contrary, it recognizes them as ravings 
of the mind and will take no more notice of them than of a person 
whom it knows to be mad. But to Divine locutions we listen as 

XXV] LIFE 159 

we should to a person of great holiness, learning and authority 
who we know will not lie to us. Indeed, even this is an inadequate 
comparison, for sometimes these words are of such majesty that, 
without our knowing from whom they come, they make us 
tremble if they are words of reproof and if they are words of love 
fill us with a love that is all-consuming. Further, as I have said, 
they are things of which the memory has no recollection, and 
sometimes they are such lengthy speeches and are uttered so quickly 
that it would take us a long time to make them up ourselves and 
in that case I am sure we could not be unaware that we had 
composed them. So there is no reason for my dwelling any longer 
upon this, for, unless he deliberately courted deception, I think 
it would be extraordinary if any experienced person were 

I have often been doubtful, and failed to believe what was said 
to me, and wondered if I had been imagining it (after the ex- 
perience was over, I mean, for at the time doubt is impossible) ; 
and then, after a long interval has elapsed, I have found it all 
fulfilled. For the Lord impresses His words upon the memory 
so that it is impossible to forget them, whereas the words that come 
from our own understanding are like the first movement of thought, 
which passes and is forgotten. The Divine words resemble 
something of which with the lapse of time a part may be forgotten 
but not so completely that one loses the memory of its having been 
said. Only if a long time has passed, or if the words were words 
of favour or of instruction, can this happen; words of prophecy, 
in my opinion, cannot possibly be forgotten at least, I can never 
forget them myself, and my memory is a poor one. 

I repeat, then, that, unless a soul should be so impious as to 
want to pretend to have received this favour, and to say it has 
understood something when it has not, which would be very 
wrong, there seems to me no possibility of its failing to know quite 
well if it is making up these words and addressing them to itself. 
This is assuming that it has once heard the Spirit of God : if it 
has not, it may continue to be deceived all its life long, and think 
it is understanding what is being said to it, though I do not know 
how it can do so. Either this soul wishes to understand or it does 
not : if it is sorely troubled at what it hears and has not the slightest 
desire to hear because of its many fears and many other reasons 
it may have for desiring to be quiet in its times of prayer and not 
to have these experiences, how can its understanding have time 
enough for the making up of these speeches? Fortune is essential 
for this. The Divine words, on the other hand, instruct us at 
once, without any lapse of time, and by their means we can 
understand things which it would probably take us a month to 

160 LIFE [CHAP. 

make up ourselves. And at some of the things which they under- 
stand, the understanding and the soul are astounded. 

That is the position; and anyone who has experience of it will 
know that all I have said is literally true. I praise God that I 
have been able so to explain it. And I will end by saying that, if 
all locutions came from the understanding, we could hear them 
whenever we liked and we could think we heard them whenever 
we prayed. But with Divine locutions this is not the case. I may 
listen for many days; and, although 1 may desire to hear them, 
I shall be unable to do so; and then, at other times, when I have 
no desire to hear them, as I have said, I am compelled to. It 
seems to me that anyone who wishes to deceive people by saying 
that he has heard from God what comes from himself might 
equally well say that he heard it with his bodily ears. It is cer- 
tainly a fact that I never thought there was any other way of 
hearing or understanding until I had this experience myself, and 
so, as I have said, it has cost me a great deal of trouble. 

When a locution comes from the devil, it not only fails to leave 
behind good effects but leaves bad ones. This has happened to 
me, though only on two or three occasions, and each time I have 
immediately been warned by the Lord that the locution came 
from the devil. Besides being left in a state of great aridity, 
the soul suffers a disquiet such as I have experienced on many 
other occasions when the Lord has allowed me to be exposed to 
many kinds of sore temptation and spiritual trial; and though 
this disquiet continually tortures me, as I shall say later, it is of 
such a nature that one cannot discover whence it comes. The 
soul seems to resist it and is perturbed and afflicted without 
knowing why, for what the devil actually says is not evil, but 
good. I wonder if one kind of spirit can be conscious of another. 

The pleasures and joys which the devil bestows are, in my 
opinion, of immense diversity. By means of these pleasures he 
might well deceive anyone who is not experiencing, or has not 
experienced, other pleasures given by God. 

I mean what I say when I describe them as pleasures, for they 
consist of a refreshment which is sweet, invigorating, lasting in its 
effects, delectable and tranquil. Mild feelings of devotion which 
come to the soul and which issue in tears and other brief emotional 
outlets are merely frail flowerets blasted at the first breath of 
persecution: they are a good beginning, and the emotions they 
engender are holy ones/but I do not call them true devotion at all 
and they are useless as means of distinguishing between a good 
spirit and an evil one. So it is well for us always to proceed with 
great caution, for persons who experience visions or revelations 
and are no farther advanced in prayer than this might easily 

XXV] LIFE 161 

be deceived. I myself had never experienced anything of the kind 
until God, of His goodness alone, granted me the Prayer of Union, 
unless it were on the first occasion of which I have spoken, when, 
many years ago, I saw Christ. 1 How I wish His Majesty had 
been pleased for me to realize then that this was a genuine vision, 
as I have since realized it was: it would have been no small 
blessing to me. After experiencing Satanic locutions, 2 the soul is 
not in the least docile but seems both bewildered and highly 
discontented at the same time. 

I consider it quite certain that the devil will not deceive, and 
that God will not permit him to deceive, a soul which has no 
trust whatever in itself, and is strengthened in faith and knows full 
well that for one single article of the Faith it would suffer a 
thousand deaths. With this love for the Faith, which God im- 
mediately infuses into it, and which produces a faith that is living 
and strong, the soul strives ever to act in conformity with the 
doctrine of the Church, asking for instruction from this person 
and from that, and acts as one already strongly established in 
these truths, so that all the revelations it could imagine, even 
were it to see the heavens opened, would not cause it to budge an 
inch from the Church's teachings. If it should ever feel its thoughts 
wavering about this, or find itself stopping to say "If God says 
this to me, it may quite well be true, just as what He said to the 
Saints is true", I will not assert that it necessarily believes what it 
is saying, but the devil is certainly taking the first step towards 
tempting it. To stop and say this is clearly wrong; but often, I 
believe, even this first step will have no effect if the soul is so 
strong in this respect (as the Lord makes the soul to whom He 
grants these things), that it feels able to pulverize the devils in its 
defence of one of the smallest of the truths which the Church holds. 

I mean by this that, if the soul does not find itself in possession 
of this great strength, and is not helped by devotion or by visions, 
it must not consider its strength to be secure. For, though it may 
not be aware of any immediate harm, great harm might be causea 
it by slow degrees; for, as far as I can see and learn by experience, 
the soul must be convinced that a thing comes from God only 
if it is in conformity with Holy Scripture; if it were to diverge 
from that in the very least, I think I should be incomparably 
more firmly convinced that it came from the devil than I previously 
was that it came from God, however sure I might have fdt of 
this. There is no need, in that case, to go in search of signs, or 
to ask from what spirit it comes ; for this is so clear a sign that it is 
of the devil that, if the whole world assured me it came from God, 

1 Chap. VII (p. 40, above). 

* [This phrase is not in the original, but appears to be understood.] 

1 62 LIFE [CHAP. 

I should not believe it. The position is that, when it comes from 
the devil, all that is good is hidden from the soul, and flees from it, 
and the soul becomes restless and peevish and the effects produced 
cannot possibly be good. It may have good desires, but they are 
not strong ones, and the humility left in it is false humility, 
devoid of tranquillity and gentleness. Anyone, I think, who has 
experience of the good spirit will understand this. 

None the less, the devil can play many tricks ; and so there is 
nothing so certain as that we must always preserve our misgivings 
about this, and proceed cautiously, and choose a learned man for 
our director, and hide nothing from him. If we do this, no harm 
can befall us, although a great deal has befallen me through 
these excessive fears which some people have. This was par- 
ticularly so on one occasion, at a meeting between a number of 
people in whom I had great confidence, and rightly so. Though 
my relations were with only one of them, he ordered me to speak 
freely with the rest; I did so, and they had long talks together 
about helping me, for they had a great affection for me and 
feared I was deluded. I, too, was terribly afraid of this except when 
at prayer, for at these times I was immediately reassured whenever 
the Lord bestowed any favour upon me. I think there were five 
or six of these people, all of them great servants of God, and my 
confessor told me that they had all decided I was being deceived 
by the devil and that I must communicate less frequently and try 
to find distractions so that I should not be alone. I was extremely 
fearful, as I have said, and my heart trouble made things worse, 
with the result that I seldom dared to remain alone in a room 
by day. When I found that they all affirmed this, but that I 
myself could not believe it, I developed a most serious scruple, 
and believed myself lacking in humility. These men, I said, were 
all leading incomparably better lives than I, and they were also 
learned men: how, then, could I do other than believe them? 
So I made every possible effort to believe what they said, realizing 
how wicked my life was, and supposing that, in view of this, 
they must be right in what they said about me. 

With this affliction oppressing me, I left the church and went 
into an oratory. For many days I had refrained from com- 
municating and from being alone, which was my great comfort; 
and I had had no one with whom to discuss this matter, for 
everyone was against me. Some of them, I thought, were mocking 
me when I spoke to them about it, as if I were imagining it all. 
Others warned my coniessor to be on his guard against me. 
Others said that it was clearly a deception of the devil. Only 
my confessor consistently comforted me, and, as I afterwards 
found out, he was siding with them in order to test me. He used 

XXV] LIFE 163 

to tell me that, provided I did not offend God, my prayer could 
do me no harm even if it came from the devil, and that in that 
case I should be delivered from it and must pray frequently to 
God. He and all his penitents did the same continually, with 
many others; and I myself, like many more whom I knew to be 
servants of God, spent the whole of the time which I set apart for 
prayer in begging His Majesty to lead me by another path. This 
went on for perhaps two years, during the whole of which time 
I made this petition to the Lord. 

Nothing was any comfort to me when I reflected that words 
which I heard might so often be coining from the devil. As I 
never now spent hours of solitude in prayer, the Lord caused me 
to be recollected in conversation. He would say what He pleased 
to me and I could do nothing against Him: much as it troubled 
me to do so, therefore, I had to listen. 

Now when I was alone, and had no one in whose company I 
could find relaxation, I was unable to pray or read, but was like 
a person stunned by all this tribulation and fear that the devil 
might be deceiving me, and quite upset and worn out, with not 
the least idea what to do. I have sometimes often, indeed 
found myself in this kind of affliction, but never, I think, have I 
been in such straits as I was then. I was like this for four or five 
hours, and neither in Heaven nor on earth was there any comfort 
for me: the Lord permitted my fears of a thousand perils to cause 
me great suffering. O my Lord, how true a Friend Thou art, 
and how powerful! For Thou canst do all Thou wilt and never 
dost Thou cease to will if we love Thee. 1 Let all things praise 
Thee, Lord of the world. Oh, if someone would but proclaim 
throughout the world how faithful Thou art to Thy friends ! All 
things fail, but Thou, Lord of them all, failest never. Little is the 
suffering that Thou dost allow to those who love Thee. O my 
Lord, how delicately and skilfully and delectably canst Thou 
deal with them! Oh, would that we had never stayed to love 
anyone save Thee! Thou seemest, Lord, to give severe tests to 
those who love Thee, but only that in the extremity of their trials 
they may learn the greater extremity of Thy love. 

O my God, had I but understanding and learning and new 
words with which to exalt Thy works as my soul knows them! 
All these, my Lord, I lack, but if Thou forsakest me not, I 
shall never fail Thee. s Let all learned men rise up against me, 
let all created things persecute me, let the devils torment me, 

1 pfhe verb translated "wilt", "will" and "love" is quercr: the play upon words 
cannot be satisfactorily rendered,] 

*[The verb is /a/tar, translated "lack" and "fail" in this half-punmng sentence, 
and "fell" below. One might render: "All these, my Lord, I lack, but . . . Thou 
shalt never lack me."] 

1 64 LIFE [CHAP. 

but fail Thou' me not, Lord, for I have already experience of 
the benefits which come to him who trusts only in Thee and 
whom Thou 'deliverest. When I was in this terrible state of ex- 
haustion for at that time I had not yet had a single vision 
these words alone were sufficient to remove it and give me com- 
plete tranquillity: "Be not afraid, daughter, for it is I and I will 
not forsake thee: fear not," 

In the state I was in at that time, I think it would have needed 
many hours to persuade me to be calm and no single person 
would have sufficed to do so. Yet here I was, calmed by nothing 
but these words, and given fortitude and courage and conviction 
and tranquillity and light, so that in a moment I found my soul 
transformed and I think I would have maintained against the 
whole world that this was the work of God. Oh, what a good God! 
Oh, what a good Lord! What a powerful Lord! He gives not 
only counsel but solace. His words are deeds. See how He 
strengthens our faith and how our love increases ! 

-This is very true, and I would often recall how when a storm 
arose the Lord used to command the winds that blew over the 
sea to be still, and I would say to myself: "Who is this, that all 
my faculties thus obey Him 1 Who in a moment sheds light 
upon such thick darkness, softens a heart that seemed to be made 
of stone, and sends water in the shape of gentle tears where for 
so long there had seemed to be aridity? Who gives these desires? 
Who gives this courage? What have I been thinking of? What 
am I afraid of? What is this? I desire to serve the Lord; I aim 
at nothing else than pleasing Him. I seek no contentment, no 
rest, no other blessing but to do His will." I felt I was quite 
sure about this and so could affirm it. 

"Well, now," I went on, "if this Lord is powerful, as I see He 
is, and know He is, and if the devils are His slaves (and of that 
there can be no doubt, for it is an article of the Faith), what harm 
can they do me, who am a servant of this Lord and King? How 
can I fail to have fortitude enough to fight against all hell? " So 
I took a cross in my hand and it really seemed that God was 
giving me courage: in a short time I found I was another person 
and I should not have been afraid to wrestle with devils, for with 
the aid of that cross I believed I could easily vanquish them 
all* "Gome on, now, all of you, I said: "I am a servant of the 
Lord and I want to see what you can do to me/' 

It certainly seemed as if I had frightened all these devils, 
for I became quite calm and had no more fear of them in fact, 
I lost all the fears which until then had: been wont to trouble me. 

1 [Evidently a reference to the miracle recorded ux St. Matthew vni, 23-7 St 
x^orfc iv. ftei-Ao and St. Luke viii 3 - 

XXV] LIFE 165 

For, although I used sometimes to see the devils, as I shall say 
later, I have hardly ever been afraid of them again indeed, they 
seem to be afraid of me. I have acquired an authority over them, 
bestowed upon me by the Lord of all, so that they are no more 
trouble to me now than flies. They seem to me such cowards 
as soon as they see that anyone despises them they have no 
strength left. They are enemies who can make a direct attack 
only upon those whom they see giving in to them, or on servants 
of God whom, for their greater good, God allows to be tried 
and tormented. May His Majesty be pleased to make us fear 
Him Whom we ought to fear 1 and understand that one venial sin 
can do us greater harm than all the forces of hell combined 
for that is really true. 

These devils keep us in terror because we make ourselves liable 
to be terrorized by contracting other attachments to honours, 
for example, and to possessions and pleasures. When this happens, 
they join forces with us since, by loving and desiring what we 
ought to hate, we become our own enemies and they will do 
us much harm. We make them fight against us with our own 
weapons, which we put into their hands when we ought to be 
using them in our own defence. That is the great pity of it. If 
only we will hate everything for God's sake and embrace the 
Cross and try to serve Him in truth, the devil will fly from these 
truths as from the plague. He is a lover of lies and a lie himself.* 
He will have no truck with anyone who walks in truth. When 
he sees that such a person's understanding is darkened, he gaily 
assists him to become completely blind; for if he sees anyone 
blind enough to find comfort in vanities and such vanities! 
for the vanities of this world are like children's playthings he 
sees that he is indeed a child, and treats him as one, making bold 
to wrestle with him, first on some particular occasion and then 
again and again. 

Please God I be not one of these! May His Majesty help me to 
find comfort in what is really comfort, to call honour what is 
really honour and to take delight in what is really delight 
and not the other way round. Not a fig 3 shall I care then for all 
the devils in hell : it is they who wall fear me. I do not understand 
these fears. "Oh, the devil, the devil!" we say, when we might 
be saying "God! God!" and making the devil tremble. Of 
course we might, for we know he cannot move a finger unless 

1 [An apparent reference to St. Matthew, x, 28.] 

* [Clearly St. Teresa has here in mind St. Joim viii, 44.] 

8 [The fig, or "fico", is a contemptuous motion which we should make by a "snap 
of the fingers" but which in sixteenth-century Spain was made by holding up the 
closed fist with the thumb showing between the first and the second finger (dear ktgas), 
Cf. p. 189, below.] 

166 LIFE [CHAP. 

the Lord permits it. Whatever are we thinking of? I am quite 
sure I am more afraid of people who are themselves terrified 
of the devil than I am of the devil himself. For he cannot harm 
me in the least, whereas they, especially if they are confessors, 
can upset people a great deal, and for several years they were 
such a trial to me that I marvel now that I was able to bear 
it. Blessed be the Lord, Who has been of such real help to me! 


Continues the same subject. Goes on with the description and explanation 
of things which befell her and which rid her of her fears and assured 
her that it was the good spirit that was speaking to her. 

This courage which the Lord gave me for my fight with the 
devils I look upon as one of the great favours He has bestowed 
upon me; for it is most unseemly that a soul should act like a 
coward, or be afraid of anything, save of offending God, since 
we have a King Who is all-powerful and a Lord so great that He 
can do everything and makes everyone subject to Him. There 
is no need for us to fear if, as I have said, we walk truthfully in 
His Majesty's presence with a pure conscience. For this reason, 
as I have said, I should desire always to be fearful so that I may 
not for a moment offend Him Who in that very moment may 
destroy us. If His Majesty is pleased with us, there is none of our 
adversaries who will not wring his hands in despair. 1 This, 
it may be said, is quite true, but what soul is upright enough to 
please Him altogether? It is for this reason, it will be said, that 
we are afraid. Certainly there is nothing upright about my own 
soul: it is most wretched, useless and full of a thousand miseries. 
But the ways of God are not like the ways 'of men. He under- 
stands our weaknesses and by means of strong inward instincts 
the soul is made aware if it truly loves Him; for the love of those 
who reach this state is no longer hidden, as it was when they were 
beginners, but is accompanied by the most vehement impulses 
and the desire to see God, which I shall describe later and 
have described already. Everything wearies such a soul; 
everything fatigues it; everything tontfents it. There is no 
rest, save that which is in God, or comes through God, which 
does not weary it, for it feels its true rest to be ,far away, and 
so its love is a thing most evident, which, as I say, cannot be 

1 [The Spanish idiom is literally: "who will not dap his hands to his head "], 


On various occasions it happened that I found myself greatly 
tried and maligned about a certain matter, to which I shall 
refer later, by almost everyone in the place where I am living 
and by my Order. I was greatly distressed by the numerous 
things which arose to take away my peace of mind. But the 
Lord said to me: "Why dost thou fear? Knowest thou not that 
I am all-powerful? I will fulfil what I have promised thee." 
And shortly afterwards this promise was in fact completely ful- 
filled. But even at that time I began at once to feel so strong 
that I believe I could have set out on fresh undertakings, even if 
serving Him had cost me further trials and I had had to begin 
to suffer afresh. This has happened so many times that I could 
not count them. Often He has uttered words of reproof to me 
in this way, and He does so still when I commit imperfections, 
which are sufficient to bring about a soul's destruction. And 
His words always help me to amend my life, for, as I have said, 
His Majesty supplies both counsel and remedy. At other times 
the Lord recalls my past sins to me, especially when He wishes 
to grant me some outstanding favour, so that my soul feds as 
if it is really at the Judgment; with such complete knowledge 
is the truth presented to it that it knows not where to hide. 
Sometimes these locutions warn me against perils to myself and 
to others, or tell me of things which are to happen three or four 
years hence: there have been many of these and they have all 
come true it would be possible to detail some of them. There 
are so many signs, then, which indicate that these locutions come 
from God that I think the fact cannot be doubted. 

The safest course is that which I myself follow: if I did not, 
I should have no peace not that it is right for women like 
ourselves to expect any peace, since we are not learned, but if 
we do what I say we cannot run into danger and are bound to 
reap great benefit, as the Lord has often told me. I mean that 
we must describe the whole of our spiritual experiences, and the 
favours granted us by the Lord, to a confessor who is a man of 
learning, and obey him. This I have often done. I had a confessor 
who used to mortify me a great deal and would sometimes distress 
and try me greatly by unsettling my mind: yet I believe he is the 
confessor who has done me most good. 1 TTiough I had a great 
love for him, I was several times tempted to leave him, for I 
thought that the distress he caused me disturbed my prayer. 
But each time I determined to do so, I realized at once that I 
must not and I received a reproof from God which caused me 
more confusion that* anything done by my confessor. Sometimes, 
*> what with the questions on the one hand and the reproofs on 

1 P. Baltasar Alvarez. 

1 68 LIFE [CHAP. 

the other, I would feel quite exhausted. But I needed them all, 
for my will was not bent to obedience. Once the Lord told me 
that I was not obeying unless I was determined to suffer. I 
must fix my eyes on all that He had suffered and I should find 
everything easy. 

A confessor to whom I had gone in my early days once advised 
me, now that my experiences were proved to be due to the good 
spirit, to keep silence and say nothing about them to anyone, 
as it was better to be quiet about such things. This seemed to 
me by no means bad advice, for whenever I used to speak about 
them to the confessor, I would be so distressed and feel so ashamed 
that sometimes it hurt me more to talk about these favours, 
especially if they were outstanding ones, than to confess grievous 
sins, for I thought my confessors would not believe me and would 
make fun of me. This distressed me so much that it seemed to 
me I was treating the wonders of God irreverently by talking 
about them, and for that reason I wanted to keep silence. I 
then found out that I had been very badly advised by that 
confessor and that when I made my confession I must on no 
account keep back anything: if I obeyed that rule I should be 
quite safe, whereas otherwise I might sometimes be deceived. 

Whenever the Lord gave me some command in prayer and the 
confessor told me to do something different, the Lord Himself 
would speak to me again and teU me to obey Him; and His 
Majesty would then change the confessor's mind so that he came 
back and ordered me to do the same thing. When a great many 
books written in Spanish were taken from us and we were for- 
bidden to read them, 1 I was very sorry, for the reading of some 
of them gave me pleasure and I could no longer continue this 
as I had them only in Latin. Then the Lord said to me: "Be 
not distressed, for I will give thee a living book." I could not 
understand why this had been said to me, for I had not then had 
any visions. 2 But a very few days afterwards, I came to under- 
stand it very well, for what I saw before me gave me so much to 
think about and so much opportunity for recollection, and the 
Lord showed me so much love and taught me by so many 
methods, that I have had very little need of books indeed, hardly 
any. His Majesty Himself has been to me the Book in which I 
have seen what is true. Blessed be such a Book, which leaves 
impressed upon us what we are to read and do, in a way that is 

1 In 1559, Don Fernando de Valdds, Grand Inquisitor of Spain, published an 
Index of books of which he forbade the reading, and this included not only heretical 
works, but also a great many devotional books written in Spanish which he thought 
might do simple souls harm. 

1 [Unless the author is mistaken about this, her first imaginary vision (sec p. 1 79, 
below) cannot have taken place before January 25, 1560]. 


unforgettable! Who can see the Lord covered with wounds and 
afflicted with persecutions without embracing them, loving them 
and desiring them for himself? Who can see any of the glory 
which He gives to those who serve Him without recognizing 
that anything he himself can do and suffer is absolutely nothing 
compared with the hope of such a reward? Who can behold the 
torments suffered by the damned without feeling that the torments 
of earth are by comparison pure joy and realizing how much we 
owe to the Lord for having so often delivered us from damnation? 
As, by the help of God, I shall say more about some of these 
things, I will now go on with the account of my life. May it 
have pleased the Lord to enable me to make clear what I have said. 
I truly believe that anyone who has had experience of it will 
understand it and see that I have succeeded in describing some 
of it; but I shall not be at all surprised if those who have not 
think it all nonsense. The fact that it is I who have said it will 
be enough to clear them from blame, and I myself shall blame 
no one who may so speak of it. May the Lord grant me duly to 
carry out His will. Amen. 


Treats of another way in which the Lord teaches the soul and in an 
admirable manner makes His will plain to it without the use of words. 
Describes a vision and a great favour, not imaginary, granted her 
by the Lord. This chapter should be carefully noted. 

Returning to the account of my life, I have already described 
my great distress and affliction and the prayers that were being 
made for me that the Lord would lead me by another and a 
surer way, since, as they told me, there was so much doubt about 
this one. The truth is that, though I was beseeching God to do 
this, and though I wished very much I could desire to be led by 
another way, yet, when I saw how much my soul was already 
benefiting. I could not possibly desire it, except occasionally 
when I was troubled by the things that were being said to me 
and the fears with which I was being inspired. Still, I kept on 
praying for it. I realized that I was completely different; so I 
put myself into God's hands, for I could do nothing else: He 
knew what was good for me and it was for Him to fulfil. His will 
in me in all things. I saw that this road was leading me towards 
Heaven, whereas formerly I had been going in the direction ol 
helL I could not force myself to desire this change or to believe 

1 70 LIFE [CHAP. 

that I was being led by the devil; I did my best to believe this, 
and to desire the change, but it was simply impossible. To this 
end I offered up all my actions, in case any of them might be 
good. I begged the Saints to whom I was devoted to deliver me 
from the devil. I made novenas and commended myself to 
Saint Hilarion and to Saint Michael the Angel, for whom, 
with this in view, I conceived a fresh devotion, and I importuned 
many other Saints so that the Lord might show me the truth 
I mean so that they might prevail with His Majesty to this 

At the end of two years, during the whole of which time both 
other people and myself were continually praying for what I have 
described that the Lord would either lead me by another way 
or make plain the truth : and these locutions which, as I have said, 
the Lord was giving me were very frequent I had the following 
experience. I was at prayer on a festival of the glorious Saint 
Peter when I saw Christ at my side or, to put it better, I was 
conscious of Him, for neither with the eyes of the body nor with 
those of the soul did I see anything. I thought He was quite 
close to me and I saw that it was He Who, as I thought, was 
speaking to me. Being completely ignorant that visions of this 
kind could occur, I was at first very much afraid, and did nothing 
but weep, though, as soon as He addressed a single word to me to 
reassure me, I became quiet again, as I had been before, and was 
quite happy and free from fear. All the time Jesus Christ seemed 
to be beside me, but, as this was not an imaginary vision, 1 
I could not discern in what form: what I felt very clearly was 
that all the time He was at my right hand, and a witness of 
everything that I was doing, and that, whenever I became slightly 
recollected or was not greatly distracted, I could not but be 
^ware of His nearness to me. 

Sorely troubled, I went at once to my confessor, to tell him 
about it. He asked me in what form I had seen Him. I told 
him that I had not seen Him at all. Then he asked me how I 
knew it was Christ. I told him that I did not know how, but that 
I could not help realizing that He was beside me, and that I 
saw and felt this clearly; that when in the Prayer of Quiet my 
soul was now much more deeply and continuously recollected; 
that the effects of my prayer were very different from those which 
I had previously been accustomed to experience; and that the 
thing was quite clear to me. I did nothing, in my efforts to make 
myself understood, but draw comparisons though really, for 
describing this kind of vision, , there is no comparison which is 
very much to the point, for it is one of the highest kinds of vision 

1 [On various types of vision, see Vol. II, p. 279, n., below.} 


possible. This was told me later by a holy man of great spirituality 
called Fray Peter of Alcantara, 1 to whom I shall afterwards refer, 
and other distinguished and learned men have told me the same 
thing. Of all kinds of vision it is that in which the devil has the 
least power of interference, and so there are no ordinary terms 
by which we women, who have so little knowledge, can describe 
it: learned men will explain it better. For, if I say that I do not 
see Him with the eyes either of the body or of the soul, because 
it is not an imaginary vision, how can I know and affirm that He 
is at my side, and this with greater certainty than if I were to see 
Him? It is not a suitable comparison to say that it is as if a 
person were in the dark, so that he cannot see someone who is 
beside him, or as if he were blind. There is some similarity here, 
but not a great deal, because the person in the dark can detect 
the other with his remaining senses, can hear him speak or move, 
or can touch him. In this case there is nothing like that, nor 
is there felt to be any darkness on the contrary, He presents 
Himself to the soul by a knowledge brighter than the sun, I 
do not mean that any sun is seen, or any brightness is perceived, 
but that there is a light which, though not seen, illumines the 
understanding so that the soul may have fruition of so great a 
blessing. It brings great blessings with it. 

It is not like another kind of consciousness of the presence 
of God which is often experienced, especially by those who have 
reached the Prayer of Union and the Prayer of Quiet. There 
we are on the point of beginning our prayer when we seem to 
find Him Whom we are about to address and we seem to know 
that He is hearing us by the spiritual feelings and effects of great 
love and faith of which we become conscious, and also by the 
fresh resolutions which we make with such deep emotion. This 
great favour comes from God : and he to whom it is granted should 
esteem it highly, for it is a very lofty form of prayer. But it is 
not a vision. The soul recognizes the presence of God by the 
effects which, as I say, He produces in the soul, for it is by that 
means that His Majesty is pleased to make His presence felt: 
but in a vision the soul distinctly sees that Jesus Christ, the Son 
of the Virgin, is present. In that other kind of prayer there come 
to it influences from the Godhead; but in this experience, besides 
receiving these, we find that the most sacred Humanity becomes 
our Companion and is also pleased to grant us favours. 
* My confessor then asked me who told me it was Jesus Christ. 
"He often tells m6 so Himself*', I replied; "but, before ever 

1 This Franciscan saint [of whom an account will be found in S.M. 9 II, 99-120] 
had in 1540 initiated a Dfecalced Reform in his Order not unlike that afterwards 
begun by St. Teresa. Of. pp. 176-8, 194^7, below. 


He told me so, the fact was impressed upon my understanding, 
and before that He used to tell me He was there when I could not 
see Him." If I were blind, or in pitch darkness, and a person 
whom I had never seen, but only heard of, came and spoke to 
me and told me who he was, I should believe him, but I could not 
affirm that it was he as confidently as if I had seen him. But in 
this case I could certainly affirm it, for, though He remains 
unseen, so clear a knowledge is impressed upon the soul that 
to doubt it seems quite impossible. The Lord is pleased that this 
knowledge should be so deeply engraven upon the understanding 
that one can no more doubt it than one can doubt the evidence 
of one's eyes indeed, the latter is easier, for we sometimes suspect 
that we have imagined what we see, whereas here, though that 
suspicion may arise for a moment, there remains such complete 
certainty that the doubt has no force. 

It is the same with another way in which God teaches the 
soul, and addresses it without using words, as I have said. This 
is so celestial a language that it is difficult to explain it to mortals, 
however much we may desire to do so, unless the Lord teaches it 
to us by experience. The Lord introduces into the inmost part 
of the soul what He wishes that soul to understand, and presents 
it, not by means of images or forms of words, but after the manner 
of this vision aforementioned. Consider carefully this way in 
which God causes the soul to understand what He wills, and also 
great truths and mysteries; for often what I understand, when the 
Lord expounds to me some vision which His Majesty is pleased 
to present to me, comes in this way; for the reasons I have given, 
I think this is the state in which the devil has the least power of 
interference. If the reasons are not good ones, I must be suffer- 
ing from deception. 

This kind of vision and this kind of language are such spiritual 
things that I believe no turmoil is caused by them in the faculties, 
or in the senses, from which the devil can pluck any advantage. 
They occur only from time to time and are quickly over; at other 
times, as I think, the faculties are not suspended, nor is the soul 
bereft of its senses, but these remain active, which in contemplation 
is not always the case it happens, indeed, very seldom. When it 
is the case, I believe that we ourselves do nothing and accomplish 
nothing the whole thing seems to be the work of the Lord. 
It is as if food has been introduced into the stomach without 
our having eaten it or knowing how it got there. We know quite 
well that it is there, although we do not know what it is or who 
put it there. In this experience, I do know Who put it there, 
but not how He did so, for my soul saw nothing and cannot 
understand how the operation took place; it had never been 


moved to desire such a thing, nor had it even come to my know- 
ledge that it was possible. 

In the locutions which we described previously, God makes 
the understanding attentive, even against its will, so that it 
understands what is said to it, for the soul now seems to have 
other ears with which it hears and He makes it listen and prevents 
it from becoming distracted. It is like a person with good hearing, 
who is forbidden to stop his ears when people near him are talking 
in a loud voice : even if he were unwilling to hear them, he could 
not help doing so. As a matter of fact he does play a part in the 
process, because he is attending to what they are saying. But in 
this experience the soul does nothing, for even the mere insigni- 
ficant ability to listen, which it has possessed until now, is taken 
from it. It finds all its food cooked and eaten: it has nothing to 
do but to enjoy it. It is like one who, without having learned 
anything, or having taken the slightest trouble in order to learn 
to read, or even having ever studied, finds himself in possession 
of all existing knowledge; he has no idea how or whence it has 
come, since he has never done any work, even so much as was 
necessary for the learning of the alphabet. 

This last comparison, I think, furnishes some sort of explanation 
of this heavenly gift, for the soul suddenly finds itself learned, and 
the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, together with other lofty 
things, is so clearly explained to it that there is no theologian 
with whom it would not have the boldness to contend in defence 
of the truth of these marvels. So astounded is the soul at what 
has happened to it that a single one of these favours suffices to 
change it altogether and make it love nothing save Him Who, 
without any labour on its part, renders it capable of receiving 
such great blessings, and communicates secrets to it and treats 
it with such friendship and love as is impossible to describe. 
For some of the favours which He bestows upon it, being so 
wonderful in themselves and granted to one who has not deserved 
them, may be regarded with suspicion, and they will not be 
believed save by one who has a most lively faith. So unless I am 
commanded to say more I propose to refer only to a few of those 
which the Lord has granted me; I shall confine myself to certain 
visions an account of which may be of some use to others, may 
stop anyone to whom the Lord gives them from thinking them 
impossible, as I used to do, and may explain to such a person 
the method and the road by which the Lord has led me, for that 
is the subject on which I am commanded to write. 

Now, returning to this method of understanding, the position 
seems to me to be that the Lord's will is for the soul to have at 
any rate some idea of what is happening in Heaven, and, just as 

174 LIFE [CHAP. 

souls in Heaven understand one another without speaking (which 
I never knew for certain till the Lord in His goodness willed me 
to see it and revealed it to me in a rapture), even so it is here. 
God and the soul understand each other, simply because this is 
His Majesty's will, and no other means is necessary to express 
the mutual love of these two friends. Just so, in this life, two 
persons of reasonable intelligence, who love each other dearly, 
seem able to understand each other without making any signs, 
merely by their looks. This must be so here, for, without seeing 
each other, we look at each other face to face as these two lovers 
do: the Spouse in the Songs, I believe, says this to the Bride: 
I have been told that it occurs there. 1 

O wondrous loving-kindness of God, Who permittest Thyself 
to be looked upon by eyes which have looked on things as sinfully 
as have the eyes of my soul! After this sight, Lord, may they 
never more accustom themselves to look on base things and may 
nothing content them but Thee. O ingratitude of mortal men ! 
How far will it go? I know by experience that all I am saying 
now is true and that what it is possible to say is the smallest part 
of what Thou doest with a soul that Thou leadest to such heights 
as this, O souls that have begun to pray and that possess true 
faith, what blessings can you find in this life to equal the least of 
these, to say nothing of tie blessings you may gain in eternity? 

Reflect for this is the truth that to those who give up every- 
thing for Him God gives Himself. He is not a respecter of per- 
sons. 2 He loves us all: no one, however wicked, can be excluded 
from His love since He has dealt in such a way with me and 
brought me to so high a state. Reflect that what I am saying 
is barely a fraction of what there is to say. I have only said what 
is necessary to explain the kind of vision and favour which God 
bestows on the soul; but I cannot describe the soul's feelings when 
the Lord grants it an understanding of His secrets and wonders 
a joy so far above all joys attainable on earth that it fills us 
with a just contempt for the joys of life, all of which are but dung. 
It is loathsome to have to make any such comparison, even if we 
might enjoy them for ever. And what are these joys that the 
Lord gives? Only a single drop of the great and abundant river 
which He has prepared for us. 

It makes one ashamed, and certainly I am ashamed of myself: 
if it were possible to be ashamed in Heaven, I should be more so 
than anyone else. Why must we desire so many blessings and 

1 Canticles vi, 2 or vi, 4 is probably meant, but the reminiscence is a vague one 
and several other phrases in the same book might have been in St. Teresa's mind. 

*JZ&: "accepter" (acetador), but the context suggests a reference to Acts x. 34.. 
(D.V.; "God is not a respecter of persons.")] 


joys, and everlasting glory, all at the cost of the good Jesus? 
If we are not helping Him to cany His Gross with the Cyrenean, 
shall we not at least weep with the daughters of Jerusalem? 1 
Will pleasures and pastimes lead us to the fruition of what He 
won for us at the cost of so much blood? That is impossible. 
And do we think that by accepting vain honours we shall be 
following Him Who was despised so that we might reign for ever? 
That is not the right way. We are going astray, far astray: 
we shall never reach our goal. Proclaim these truths aloud. 
Your Reverence, since God has denied me the freedom to do so 
myself. I should like to proclaim them for ever, but, as will be 
seen from what I have written, it was so long before God heard 
me and I came to know Him that it makes me very much ashamed 
to speak of it and I prefer to keep silence; so I shall only speak 
of something about which I meditate from time to time. 

May it please the Lord to bring me to a state in which I can 
enjoy this blessing. What will be the accidental glory and what 
the joy of the blessed who already have fruition of it when they 
see that, late as they were, they left nothing undone that they 
could possibly do for God, and kept back nothing, but gave to 
Him in every possible way, according to their power and their 
position; and the more they had, the more they gave! How rich 
will he find himself who has forsaken all his riches for Christ! 
What honour will be paid to those who for His sake desired no 
honour but took pleasure in seeing themselves humbled! What 
wisdom will be attributed to the man who rejoiced at being 
accounted mad, since madness was attributed to Him Who is 
Wisdom itself. How few such, through our sins, are there now! 
Alas, alas! No longer are there any whom men account mad 
because they see them perform the heroic deeds proper to 
true lovers of Christ. O world, world! How much of thy 
reputation dost thou acquire because of the few there are who 
know thee! 

For we believe that God is better pleased when we are accounted 
wise and discreet. That may be so: it all depends on what we 
mean by discretion. We at once assume that we are failing to 
edify others if each one of us in his calling does not comport 
himself with great circumspection and make a show of authority. 
Even in the friar, the cleric and the nun we think it very strange 
and a scandal to the weak if they wear old, patched clothes, or 
even (to such a pass has the world come and so forgetful are we 
of the vehement longings which the saints had for perfection) 
if they are greatly recollected and given to prayer. The world 
is bad enough nowadays without being made worse by things like 

1 fSt. Lukcxmi, a6y 28.] 

176 LIFE [CHAP. 

this. 1 No scandal would be caused to anyone if religious put 
into practice what they say about the little esteem in which the 
world should be held, for the Lord turns any such scandals as 
these to great advantage. If some were scandalized, too, others 
would be struck with remorse; and we should at least have a 
picture of what was suffered by Christ and His Apostles, which 
we need now more than ever. 

And what a grand picture of it has God just taken from us 
in the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara! 2 The world is not yet in a 
fit state to bear such perfection. It is said that people's health is 
feebler nowadays and that times are not what they were. But 
it was in these present times that this holy man lived; and yet 
his spirit was as robust as any in the days of old, so that he was 
able to keep the world beneath his feet. And, although everyone 
does not go about unshod 3 or perform such severe penances 
as he did, there are many ways, as I have said on other occasions, 
of trampling on the world and these ways the Lord teaches to 
those in whom He sees courage. And what great courage His 
Majesty gave to this holy man to perform those severe penances, 
which are common knowledge, for forty-seven years I I will 
say something about this, for I know it is all true. 

He told this to me, and to another person from whom he 
concealed little 45 the reason he told me was his love for me, for 
the Lord was pleased to give him this love so that he might stand 
up for me and encourage me at a time of great need, of which I 
have spoken and shall speak further. I think it was for forty 
years that he told me he had slept only for an hour and a half 
between each night and the next day, and that, when he began, 
the hardest part of his penance had been the conquering of sleep, 
for which reason he was always either on his knees or on his feet. 
What sleep he had he took sitting down, with his head resting 
against a piece of wood that he had fixed to the wall* Sleep lying 
down he could not, even if he had so wished, for his cell, as is well 
known, was only four and a half feet long. During all these years, 
however hot the sun or heavy the rain, he never wore his hood, or 
anything on his feet, and his only dress was a habit of sackcloth, 
with nothing between it and his flesh, and this he wore as tightly 
as he could bear, with a mantle of tie same material above it. 

1 [This sentence is a free translation of one of the most obscure a^d ungrammatical 
sentences in St. Teresa. One can only guess at its precise meaning, but there is no 
doubt as to its general sense.] 

8 St. Peter of Alcantara died on October 18, 1562 [a fact which would be useful 
in helping to fix the date of this book were there not references to later events below! 

[!**.: naked]. < J 

* This was his penitent Mada Diaz, a well-to-do woman of great saintliness who 
lived a life of Franciscan poverty and charity in Avila and to whom St. Teresa alludes 
by name more than once [e.g, 3 Letters, 10, 403], describing her as a saint. 


He told me that, when it was very cold, he would take off the 
mantle, and leave the door and window of his cell open, so that, 
when he put it on again and shut the door, he could derive some 
physical satisfaction from the increased protection. It was a 
very common thing for him to take food only once in three days. 
He asked me why I was so surprised at this and said that, when 
one got used to it, it was quite possible, A companion of his told 
me that sometimes he would go for a week without food. That 
must have been when he was engaged in prayer, for he used to 
have great raptures and violent impulses of love for God, of which 
I was myself once a witness. 

His poverty was extreme, and so, even when he was quite young, 
was his mortification: he told me that he once spent three years 
in a house of his Order and could not have recognized a single 
friar there, except by his voice, for he never raised his eyes, and 
so, when he had to go to any part of the house, could only do so 
by following the other friars. It was the same thing out of doors. 
At women he never looked at all and this was his practice for 
many years. He told me that it was all the same to him now 
whether he saw anything or not; but he was very old when I 
made his acquaintance 1 and so extremely weak that he seemed to 
be made of nothing but roots of trees. But with all this holiness 
he was very affable, though, except when answering questions, 
a man of few words. When he did speak it was a delight to listen 
to him, for he was extremely intelligent. There are many other 
things which I should like to say about him but I am afraid 
Your Reverence will ask why I am starting on this subject 
indeed, I have been afraid of that even while writing. So I will 
stop here, adding that he died as he had lived, preaching to, 
and admonishing, his brethren. When he saw that his life was 
drawing to a close, he repeated the psalm "Laetatus sum in his 
quae dicta sunt mihi", 2 and then knelt down and died. 

Since his death it has been the Lord's good pleasure that I 
should have more intercourse with Jiim than I had during his 
life and that he should advise me on many subjects. I have 
often beheld him in the greatest bliss. The first time he 
appeared to me he remarked on the blessedness of the penance 
that had won him so great a prize, and he spoke of many other 
things as well. One of his appearances to me took place a year 
before his death. I was away at the time ; and, knowing he was soon 
to die, I told him so, when he was some leagues from here. 
When he expired, he appeared to me and said that he was 

1 [Actually he was fifty-nine], 

* Psalm cxxi. i [A.V., cxxii. i]: "I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: 
We shall go into the house of the Lord." 

1 78 LIFE [CHAP. 

going to rest. I did not believe this, but repeated it to a number 
of people and in a week came the news that he was dead or, 
to put it better, that he had entered upon eternal life. 

See, then, how this austere life has ended in great glory. He 
is a much greater comfort to me, I think, than when he was 
on earthy The Lord once told me that no one should ask Him 
for anything in his name and not be heard. Many things which 
I have commended to him so that he should ask the Lord for 
them I have seen granted. Blessed be He for ever! Amen. 

But what a lot I have been saying in order to incite Your 
Reverence to pay no esteem to the things of this life, as though 
you did not know this already and had not already determined 
to forsake everything and put your determination into practice. 
I see so many people in the world going to perdition that, al- 
though when I speak in this way I may succeed only in tiring myself 
by writing, it is a comfort to me, for everything I say tells against 
myself. May the Lord forgive me for anything in which I have 
offended Him in this matter, and may Your Reverence also 
forgive me, for I am wearying you to no purpose. It looks as 
if I want to make you do penance for the sins which I have 
myself committed. 


Treats of the great favours which the Lord bestowed upon her> and of 
His first appearance to her. Describes the nature of an imaginary 
vision. Enumerates the important effects and signs which this pro-' 
duces when it proceeds from God. This chapter is very profitable and 
should be carefully noted. 

Returning to our subject: I spent some days, though only a 
few, with that vision continually in my mind, and it did me so 
much good that I remained in prayer unceasingly and con- 
trived that everything I did should be such as not to displease 
Him Who, as I clearly perceived, was a witness of it. And, 
although I was given so much advice that I sometimes became 
afraid, my fear was short-lived, for the Lord reassured me. One 
day, when I was at prayer, the Lord was pleased to reveal to 
me nothing but His hands, the beauty of which was so great 
as to be indescribable. This made me very fearful, as does every 
new experience that I have when the Lord is beginning to 
grant me some supernatural favour. A few days later I also 
saw that Divine face, which seemed to leave me completely 
absorbed. I could not understand why the Lord revealed Him- 


self gradually like this since He was later to grant me the favour 
of seeing Him wholly, until at length I realized that His Majesty 
was leading me according to my natural weakness. May He 
be blessed for ever, for so much glory all at once would have 
been more than so base and wicked a person could bear: knowing 
this, the compassionate Lord prepared me for it by degrees. 

Your Reverence may suppose that it would have needed no 
great effort to behold those hands and that beauteous face. But 
there is such beauty about glorified bodies that the glory which 
illumines them throws all who look upon such supernatural 
loveliness into confusion. I was so much afraid, then, that I 
was plunged into turmoil and confusion, though later I began 
to feel such certainty and security that my fear was soon lost. 

One year, on Saint Paul's Day 1 , when I was at Mass, I saw 
a complete representation of this most sacred Humanity, just 
as in a picture of His resurrection body, in very great beauty 
and majesty; this I described in detail to Your Reverence in 
writing, at your very insistent request. It distressed me terribly 
to have to do so, for it is impossible to write such a description 
without a disruption of one's very being, but I did the best I 
could and so there is no reason for me to repeat the attempt 
here. I will only say that, if there were nothing else in Heaven 
to delight the eyes but the extreme beauty of the glorified bodies 
there, that alone would be the greatest bliss. A most especial 
bliss, then, will it be to us when we see the Humanity of Jesus 
Christ; for, if it is so even on earth, where His Majesty reveals 
Himself according to what our wretchedness can bear, what 
will it be where the fruition of that joy is complete? Although 
this vision is imaginary, I never saw it, or any other vision, 
with the eyes of the body, but only with the eyes of the soul. 

Those who know better than I say that the type of vision 
already described 2 is nearer perfection than this, while this in 
its turn is much more so 'than those which are seen with the 
eyes of the body. The last-named type, they say, is the lowest 
and the most open to delusions from the devil. At that time 
I was not aware of this, and wished that, as this favour was 
being granted me, it could have been of such a kind as was 
visible to the eyes of the body, and then my confessor would 
not tell me I was imagining it. And no sooner had the vision 
faded the very moment, indeed, after it had gone than I 
began to think the same thing myself- that I had imagined 

1 [P. Silverio dates this occurrence January 25, 1558, but a reference in Chap. 
XXVI (p. 1 68, above) suggests that it was subsequent to 1559. A farther allusion 
(p. 189, below) would indicate June 29 or 30 rather than January 25.] 

* [I.e., the intellectual vision. By **this", of course, is meant the imaginary vision.] 

180 LIFE [CHAP. 

it and was worried at having spoken about it to my confessor 
and wondered if I had been deceiving him. Here was another 
cause for distress, so I went to him and consulted him about it. 
He asked me if I had told him what the vision really looked 
like to me or if I had meant to deceive him. I said I had told 
him the truth, for I felt sure I had not been lying or had had 
any such intention; I would not think one thing and say another 
for the whole world. This he well knew, and so he managed 
to calm me. It worried me so much to have to go to him about 
these things that I cannot imagine how the devil could ever 
have suggested to me that I must be inventing them and thus 
be torturing myself. But the Lord made such haste to grant me 
this favour and to make its reality plain that my doubt about 
its being fancy left me immediately and since then it has become 
quite clear to me how silly I was. For, if I were to spend years 
and years imagining how to invent anything so beautiful, I 
could not do it, and I do not even know how I should try, for, 
even in its whiteness and radiance alone, it exceeds all that we 
can imagine. 

It is not a radiance which dazzles, but a soft whiteness and 
an infused radiance which, without wearying the eyes, causes 
them the greatest delight; nor are they wearied by the brightness 
which they see in seeing this Divine beauty. So different from 
any earthly light is the brightness and light now revealed to the 
eyes that, by comparison with it, the brightness of our sun seems 
quite dim and we should never want to open our eyes again 
for the purpose of seeing it. It is as if we were to look at a very 
clear stream, in a bed of crystal, reflecting the sun's rays, and 
then to see a very muddy stream, in an earthy bed and over- 
shadowed by clouds. Not that the sun, or any other such light, 
enters into the vision: on the contrary, it is like a natural light 
and all other kinds of light seem artificial. It is a light which 
never gives place to night, and, being always light, is disturbed 
by nothing. It is of such a kind, indeed, that no one, however 
powerful his intellect, could, in the whole course of his life, 
imagine it as it is. And so quickly does God reveal it to us that, 
even if we needed to open our eyes in order to see it, there would 
not be time for us to do so. But it is all the same whether they 
are open or closed : if the Lord is pleased for us to see it, we shall 
do so even against our will. There is nothing powerful enough 
to divert our attention from it, and we can neither resist it nor 
attain to it by any diligence or care of our own. This I have 
conclusively proved by experience, as I shall relate. 

I should like now to say something of the way in which the 
Lord reveals Himself through these visions. I do not mean that 


I shall describe how it is that He can introduce this strong 
light into the inward sense and give the understanding an image 
so clear that it seems like reality. That is a matter for learned 
men to explain. The Lord has not been pleased to grant me to 
understand how it is; and I am so ignorant, and my under- 
standing is so dull that, although many attempts have been 
made to explain it to me, I have not yet succeeded in under- 
standing how it can happen. There is no doubt about this: 
I have not a keen understanding, although Your Reverence 
may think I have; again and again I have proved that my mind 
has to be spoon-fed, as they say, if it is to retain anything. Occa- 
sionally my confessor used to be astounded at the depths of my 
ignorance, and it never became clear to me how God did this 
and how it was possible that He should; nor, in fact, did I want 
to know, so I never asked anyone about it, though, as I have 
said, I have for many years been in touch with men of sound 
learning. What I did ask them was whether certain things were 
sinful or no: as for the rest, all I needed was to remember that 
God did everything and then I realized that I had no reason 
to be afraid and every reason to praise Him. Difficulties like 
that only arouse devotion in me, and, the greater they are, the 
greater is the devotion. 

I will describe, then, what I have discovered by experience. 
How the Lord effects it, Your Reverence will explain better 
than I and will expound everything obscure of which I do not 
know the explanation. At certain times it really seemed to me 
that it was an image I was seeing; but on many other occasions 
I thought it was no image, but Christ Himself, such was the 
brightness with which He was pleased to reveal Himself to me. 
Sometimes, because of its indistinctness, I would think the vision 
was an image, though it was like no earthly painting, however 
perfect, and I have seen a great many good ones* It is ridiculous 
to think that the one thing is any more like the other than a 
lining person is like his portrait: however well the portrait is 
done, it can never look completely natural: one sees, in fact, 
that it is a dead thing. But let us pass over that, apposite and 
literally true though it is. 

I am not saying this as a comparison, for comparisons are 
never quite satisfactory: it is the actual truth. The difference 
is similar to that between something living and something painted, 
neither more so nor less. For if what I see is an image it is a 
living image not a dead man but the living Christ. And He 
shows me that He is both Man and God not as He was in 
the sepulchre, but as He was when He left it after rising from 
the dead. Sometimes He comes with such majesty that no one 


can doubt it is the Lord Himself; this is especially so after 
Communion, for we know that He is there, since the Faith 
tells us so. He reveals Himself so completely as the Lord of 
that inn, the soul, that it feels as though it were wholly dissolved 
and consumed in Christ. O my Jesus, if one could but describe 
the majesty with which Thou dost reveal Thyself! How com- 
pletely art Thou Lord of the whole world, and of the heavens, 
and of a thousand other worlds, and of countless worlds and 
heavens that Thou hast created! And the majesty with which 
Thou dost reveal Thyself shows the soul that to be Lord of this 
is nothing for Thee. 

Here it becomes evident, my Jesus, how trifling is the power 
of all the devils in comparison with Thine, and how he who 
is pleasing to Thee can trample upon all the hosts of hell. Here 
we see with what reason the devils trembled when Thou didst 
descend into Hades : well might they have longed for a thousand 
deeper hells in order to flee from such great Majesty! I see 
that Thou art pleased to reveal to the soul the greatness of Thy 
Majesty, together with the power of this most sacred Humanity 
in union with the Divinity. Here is a clear picture of what the 
Day of Judgment will be, when we shall behold the Majesty of 
this King and see the rigour of His judgment upon the wicked. 
Here we find true humility, giving the soul power to behold 
its own wretchedness, of which it cannot be ignorant. Here is 
shame and genuine repentance for sin; for, though it sees God 
revealing His love to it, the soul can find no place to hide itself 
and thus is utterly confounded. I mean that, when th Lord 
is pleased to reveal to the soul so much of His greatness and 
majesty, the vision has such exceeding great power that I believe 
it would be impossible to endure, unless the Lord were pleased 
to help the soul in a most supernatural way by sending it into 
a rapture or an ecstasy, during the fruition of which the vision 
of that Divine Presence is lost. Though it is true that afterwards 
the vision is forgotten, the majesty and beauty of God are so 
deeply imprinted upon the soul that it is impossible to forget 
these save when the Lord is pleased for the soul to suffer the 
great loneliness and aridity that I shall describe later; for then 
it seems even to forget God Himself. The soul is now a new 
creature: it is continuously absorbed in God; it seems to me 
that a new and living love of God is beginning to work within* 
it to a very high degree; for, though the former type of vision 
which, as I said, reveals God without presenting any image of 
Him, is of a higher kind, yet, if the memory of it is to last, despite 
our weakness, and if the thoughts are to be well occupied, it 
is a great thing that so Divine a Presence should be presented 


to the imagination and should remain within it. These two 
kinds of vision almost invariably occur simultaneously, and, as 
they come in this way, the eyes of the soul see the excellence 
and the beauty and the glory of the most holy Humanity. And 
in the other way which has been described it is revealed to us 
how He is God, and that He is powerful, and can do all things, 
and commands all things, and rules all things, and fills all 
things with His love. 

This vision is to be very highly esteemed, and, in my view, 
there is no peril in it, as its effects show that the devil has no 
power over it. Three or four times, I think, he has attempted 
to present the Lord Himself to me in this way, by making a 
false likeness of Him. He takes the form of flesh, but he cannot 
counterfeit the glory which the vision has when it comes from 
God. He makes these attempts in order to destroy the effects 
of the genuine vision that the soul has experienced; but the soul, 
of its own accord, resists them: it then becomes troubled, des- 
pondent and restless; loses the devotion and joy which it had 
before ; and is unable to pray. At the beginning of my experiences, 
as I have said, this happened to me three or four times. It is so 
very different from a true vision that I think, even if a soul 
has experienced only the Prayer of Quiet, it will become aware 
of the difference from the effects which have been described in 
the chapter on locutions. The thing is very easy to recognize; 
and, unless a soul wants to be deceived, I do not think the 
devil will deceive it if it walks in humility and simplicity. Any- 
one, of course, who has had a genuine vision from God will 
recognize the devil's work almost at once; he will begin by 
giving the soul consolations and favours, but it will thrust them 
from it. And further, I think, the deviTs consolations must be 
different from those of God : there is no suggestion in them of 
pure and chaste love and it very soon becomes easy to see whence 
they come. So, in my view, where a soul has had experience, 
the devil will be unable to do it any harm. 

Of all impossibilities, the most impossible is that these true 
visions should be the work of the imagination. There is no way 
in which this could be so : by the mere beauty and whiteness of 
a single one of the hands which we are shown the imagination is 
completely transcended. In any case, there is no other way in 
which it would be possible for us to see in a moment things of 
which we have no recollection, which we have never thought 
of, and which, even in a long period of time, we could not invent 
with our imagination, because, as I have already said., they far 
transcend what we can comprehend on earth. Whether we could 
possibly be in any way responsible for this will be clear from 

1 84 LIFE [CHAP. 

what I shall now say. If, in a vision, the representation proceeded 
from our own understanding, quite apart from the fact that it 
would not bring about the striking effects which are produced 
when a vision is of God , or, indeed, any effects at all, the position 
would be like that of a man who wants to put himself to sleep 
but stays awake because sleep has not come to him. He needs 
it perhaps his brain is tired and so is anxious for it; and he 
settles down to doze, and does all he can to go off to sleep, 
and sometimes thinks he is succeeding, but if it is not real sleep 
it will not restore him or refresh his brain indeed, the brain 
sometimes grows wearier. Something like that will be the case 
here: instead of being restored and becoming strong, the soul 
will grow wearier and become tired and peevish. It is impossible 
for human tongue to exaggerate the riches which a vision from 
God brings to the soul: it even bestows health and refreshment 
on the body. 

I used to put forward this argument, together with others, 
when they told me, as they often did, that I was being deceived 
by the devil and that it was all the work of my imagination. 
I also drew such comparisons as I could and as the Lord revealed 
to my understanding. But it was all to little purpose, because 
there were some very holy persons in the place, by comparison 
with whom I was a lost creature; and, as God was not leading 
these persons by that way, they were afraid and thought that 
what I saw was the result of my sins. They repeated to one 
another what I said, so that before long they all got to know 
about it, though I had spoken of it only to my confessor and 
to those with whom he had commanded me to discuss it. 

I once said to the people who were talking to me in this way 
that if they were to tell me that a person whom I knew well 
and had just been speaking to was not herself at all, but that I 
was imagining her to be so, and that they knew this was the case, 
I should certainly believe them rather than my own eyes. But, 
I added, if that person left some jewels with me, which I was 
actually holding in my hands as pledges of her great love, and 
if, never having had any before, I were thus to find myself rich 
instead of poor, I could not possibly believe that this was 
delusion, even if I wanted to. And, I said, I could show them 
these jewels for all who knew me were well aware how my 
soul had changed: my confessor himself testified to this, for the 
difference was very great in every respect, and no fancy, but 
such as all could clearly see. As I had previously been so wicked, 
I concluded, I could not believe that, if the devil were doing 
this to delude me and drag me down to hell, he would make 
use of means which so completely defeated their own ends by 


taking away my vices and making me virtuous and strong; for 
it was quite clear to me that these experiences had immediately 
made me a different person. 

My confessor, who, as I have said, was a very holy Father of 
the Company of Jesus, 1 gave them so I learned the same 
reply. He was very discreet and a man of deep humility, and 
this deep humility brought great trials upon me; for, being a 
man of great prayer and learning, he did not trust his own 
opinion, and the Lord was not leading him by this path. Very 
great trials befell him on my account, and this in many ways. 
I knew they used to tell him that he must be on his guard against 
me, lest the devil should deceive him into believing anything 
I might say to him, and they gave him similar examples of what 
had happened with other people. All this worried me. I was 
afraid that there would be no one left to hear my confession, 
and that everyone would flee from me: I did nothing but weep. 

By the providence of God this Father consented to persevere 
with me and hear me: so great a servant of God was he that 
for His sake he would have exposed himself to anything. So 
he told me that I must not offend God or depart from what he 
said to me, and if I were careful about that I need not be afraid 
that He would fail me. He always encouraged me and soothed 
me. And he always told me not to hide anything from him, 
in which I obeyed him. He would say that, if I did this, the 
devil assuming it to be the devil would not hurt me, and 
that in fact, out of the harm which he was trying to do my soul, 
the Lord would bring good. He did his utmost to lead my soul 
to perfection. As I was so fearful, I obeyed him in every way, 
though imperfectly. For the three years and more during which 
he was my confessor 2 , I gave him a great deal of trouble with 
these trials of mine, for during the grievous persecutions which 
I suffered and on the many occasions when the "Lord allowed^ 
me to be harshly judged, often undeservedly, all kinds of tales* 
about me were brought to him and he would be blamed on 
my account when he was in no way blameworthy. 

Had he not been a man of such sanctity, and had not the 
Lord given him courage, he could not possibly have endured so 
much, for he had to deal with people who did not believe him 

1 P. Baltasar Alvarez. As this Father was only twenty-five years of age when he 
became St. Teresa's director, it is not surprising that he was disinclined to trust his 
own opinion, the more so as his Rector, f\ Dionisio Vazquez, was a man of a rigid 
and inflexible temperament. P. Luis de la Puente [who was under him at Medina 
and wrote his biography: cf. S.S.M., II, 310-13] tells us that he himself was very 
conscious of his deficiencies in this respect. Cf. La Puente : Vlda del Padre Baltasar Alvarez, 
etc., Madrid, 1615, Chap. XIIL 

* The period was actually of six years, but the author naturally dwells most upon 
the first three, which were the most difficult for her* 

1 86 LIFE [CHAP. 

but thought I was going to destruction and at the same time 
he had to soothe me and deliver me from the fears which were 
oppressing me, though these he sometimes only intensified. He 
had also to reassure me; for, whenever I had a vision involving 
a new experience, God allowed me to be left in great fear. This 
all came from my having been, and my still being, such a sinner. 
He would comfort me most compassionately, and, if he had 
had more trust in himself, I should have had less to suffer, for 
God showed him the truth about everything and I believe the 
Sacrament itself gave him light. 

Those of God's servants who were not convinced that all was 
well would often come and talk to me. Some of the things I 
said to them I expressed carelessly and they took them in. the 
wrong sense. To one of them I was very much attached : he 
was a most holy man and my soul was infinitely in his debt 
and I was infinitely distressed at his misunderstanding me when 
he was so earnestly desirous that I should advance in holiness 
and that the Lord should give me light. Well, as I have said, 
I spoke without thinking what I was saying and my words seemed 
to these people lacking in humility. When they saw any faults 
in me, and they must have seen a great many, they condemned 
me outright. They would ask me certain questions, which I 
answered plainly, though carelessly; and they then thought I 
was trying to instruct them and considered myself a person of 
learning. All this reached the ears of my confessor (for they 
were certainly anxious to improve me), whereupon he began 
to find fault with me. 

This state of things went on for a long time and I was troubled 
on many sides; but, thanks to the favours which the Lord 
granted me, I endured everything. I say this so that it may 
be realized what a great trial it is to have no one with experience 
^of this spiritual road; if the Lord had not helped me so much, 
*I do not know what would have become of me. I had troubles 
enough to deprive me of my reason, and I sometimes found 
myself in such a position that I could do nothing but lift up 
my eyes to the Lord. For though the opposition of good people 
to a weak and wicked woman like myself, and a timid one at 
that, seems nothing when described in this way, it was one of 
the worst trials that I have ever known in my life, and I have 
"suffered some very severe ones. May the Lord grant me to 
have done His Majesty a little service here; for I am quite sure 
that those who condemned and arraigned me were doing Him 
service and that it was all for my great good. 



Continues the subject already begun and describes certain great favours 
which the Lord showed her and the things which His Majesty said 
to her to reassure her and give her answers for those who opposed 

I have strayed far from my intention, for I was trying to 
give the reasons why this kind of vision cannot be the work of 
the imagination. How could we picture Christ's Humanity by 
merely studying the subject or form any impression of His great 
beauty by means of the imagination? No little time would be 
necessary if such a reproduction was to be in the least like the 
original. One can indeed make such a picture with one's imagina- 
tion, and spend time in regarding it, and considering the form 
and the brilliance of it; little by little one may even learn to 
perfect such an image and store it up in the memory. Who 
can prevent this? Such a picture can undoubtedly be fashioned 
with the understanding. But with regard to the vision which 
we are discussing there is no way of doing this : we have to 
look at it when the Lord is pleased to reveal it to us to look as 
He wills and at whatever He wills. And there is no possibility 
of our subtracting from it or adding to it, or any way in which 
we can obtain it, whatever we may do, or look at it when we 
like or refrain from looking at it. If we try to look at any par- 
ticulai' part of it, we at once lose Christ. 

For two years and a half things went on like this and it was 
quite usual for God to grant me this favour. It must now be 
more than three years since He took it from me as a continually 
recurring favour, 1 by giving me something else of a higher kind, 
which I shall describe later. Though I saw that He was speaking 
to me, and though I was looking upon that great beauty of His, 
and experiencing the sweetness with which He uttered those 
words sometimes stern words with that most lovely and 
Divine mouth, and though, too, I was extremely desirous of 
observing the colour of His eyes, or His height, so that I should 
be able to describe it, I have never been sufficiently worthy 
to see this, nor has it been of any use for me to attempt to do 
so; if I tried, I lost the vision altogether. Though I sometimes 

1 [If the first imaginary visionjoccurred on January 25, 1560 (cf. pp. 168, 179, above, 
but also p. 189, below), this would mean that St. Teresa was writing this chapter 
in the summer of 1565, which (c pp. 4-5, above^ is about correct. To date the 
first vision in January 1558 would bring the writing of the chapter to 1563, which is 
almost certainly too early.] 

1 88 LIFE [CHAP. 

see Him looking at me compassionately, His gaze has such power 
that my soul cannot endure it and remains in so sublime a rap- 
ture that it loses this beauteous vision in order to have the greater 
fruition of it all. So there is no question here of our wanting or 
not wanting to see the vision. It is clear that the Lord wants 
of us only humility and shame, our acceptance of what is given 
us and our praise of its Giver, 

This refers to all visions, none excepted. There is nothing 
that we can do about them; we cannot see more or less of them 
at will; and we can neither call them up nor banish them by 
our own efforts. The Lord's will is that we shall see quite clearly 
that they are produced, not by us but by His Majesty. Still less 
can we be proud of them : on the contrary, they make us humble 
and fearful, when we find that, just as the Lord takes from us 
the power of seeing what we desire, so He 'can also take from 
us these favours and His grace, with the result that we are com- 
pletely lost. So while we live in this exile let us always walk 
with fear. 

Almost invariably the Lord showed Himself to me in His 
resurrection body, and it was thus, too, that I saw Him in the 
Host. Only occasionally, to strengthen me when I was in tribula- 
tion, did He show me His wounds, and then He would appear 
sometimes as He was on the Cross and sometimes as in the Garden. 
On a few occasions I saw Him wearing the crown of thorns and 
sometimes He would also be carrying the Cross because of my 
necessities, as I say, and those of others but always in His 
glorified flesh. Many are the affronts and trials that I have 
suffered through telling this and many are the fears and per- 
secutions that it has brought me. So sure were those whom I told 
of it that I had a devil that some of them wanted to exorcize me. 
This troubled me very little, but I was sorry when I found that 
my confessors were afraid to hear iny confessions or when I heard 
that people were saying things to them against me. None the less, 
I could never regret having seen these heavenly visions and I 
would not exchange them for all the good things and delights 
of this world. I always considered them a great favour from the 
Lord, and I think they were the greatest of treasures ; often the 
Lord ffimself would reassure me about them. I found my love 
for Him growing exceedingly: I used to go to Him and tell Him 
about all these trials and I always came away from prayer com- 
forted and with new strength. I did not dare to argue with 
my critics, because I saw that that made things worse, as they 
thought me lacking in humility. With my confessor, however, 
I did discuss these matters; and whenever he saw that I was 
troubled he would comfort me greatly. 


As the visions became more numerous, one of those who had 
previously been in the habit of helping me and who used some- 
times to hear my confessions when the minister was unable 
to do so, began to say that it was clear I was being deceived 
by the devil. So, as I was quite unable to resist it, they commanded 
me to make the sign of the Gross whenever I had a vision, and to 
snap my fingers at it 1 so as to convince myself that it came from 
the devil, whereupon it would not come again: I was not to be 
afraid, they said, and God would protect me and take the vision 
away. This caused me great distress: as I could not help believing 
that my visions came from God, it was a terrible thing to have 
to do; and, as I have said, I could not possibly wish them to be 
taken from me. However, I did as they commanded me. I 
besought God often to set me free from deception; indeed, I was 
continually doing so and with many tears, I would also invoke 
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, for the Lord had told me (it was on 
their festival that He had first appeared to me) 2 that they would 
prevent me from being deluded; and I used often to see them 
very clearly on my left hand, though not in an imaginary vision. 
These glorious Saints were in a very real sense my lords* 

To be obliged to snap my fingers at a vision in which I saw 
the Lord caused me the sorest distress. For, when I saw Him 
before me, I could not have believed that the vision had come 
from the devil even if the alternative were my being cut to pieces. 
So this was a kind of penance to me, and a heavy one. In order 
not to have to be so continually crossing myself, I would carry 
a cross in my hand. This I did almost invariably; but I was not 
so particular about snapping my fingers at the vision, for it hurt 
me too much to do that. It reminded me of the way the Jews 
had insulted Him, and I would beseech Him to forgive me, 
since I did it out of obedience to him who was in His own place, 
and not to blame me, since he was one of the ministers whom 
He had placed in His Church. He told me not to worry about it 
and said I was quite right to obey, but He would see that my 
confessor learned the truth. When they made me stop my prayer 
He seemed to me to have become angry, and He told me to tell 
them that this was tyranny. He used to show me ways of knowing 
that the visions were not of the devil; some of these I shall describe 

Once, when I was holding in my hand the cross of a rosary, 
He put out His own hand and took it from me, and, when He 

1 Dar Mgas i.e., make the sign of contempt described on p. 165, n. 3, above. 

2 [This phrase would seem to indicate that the first vision -was on June 29 (or possibly 
on June 30 . the Commemoration of St. Paul) and not on January 25 (see p. 1 87, above). 
If this deduction and my dating of the year as 1560 are both correct, this part of the 
book was not written until the very end of 1565. Cf. p. 4, above.] 

i go LIFE [CHAP. 

gave it back to me, it had become four large stones, much more 
precious than diamonds incomparably more so, for it is impos- 
sible, of course, to make comparisons with what is supernatural, 
and diamonds seem imperfect counterfeits beside the precious 
stones which I saw in that vision. On the cross, with exquisite 
workmanship, were portrayed the five wounds. 1 He told me that 
henceforward it would always look to me like that, and so it 
did: I could never see the wood of which it was made, but only 
these stones. To nobody, however, did it look like this except 
to myself. As soon as they had begun to order me to test my 
visions in this way, and to resist them, the favours became more 
and more numerous. In my efforts to divert my attention from 
them, I never ceased from prayer; even when asleep I used to 
seem to be praying, for this made me grow in love. I would 
address my complaints to the Lord, telling Him I could not bear 
it. Desire and strive to cease thinking of Him as I would, it was 
not in my power to do so. In every respect I was as obedient 
as I could be, but about this I could do little or nothing, and the 
Lord never gave me leave to disobey. But, though He told me 
to do as I was bidden, He reassured me in another way, by 
teaching me what I was to say to my critics; and this He does 
still. The arguments with which He provided me were so con- 
clusive that they made me feel perfectly secure. 

Shortly after this, Has Majesty began to give me clearer signs 
of His presence, as He had promised me to do. There grew 
within me so strong a love of God that I did not know who was 
inspiring me with it, for it was entirely supernatural and I had 
made no efforts to obtain it. I found myself dying with the 
desire to see God and I knew no way of seeking that life save 
through death. This love came to me in vehement impulses, 
which, though less unbearable, and of less worth, than those of 
which I have spoken previously, took from me all power of action. 
For nothing afforded me satisfaction and I was incapable of 
containing myself: it really seemed as though my soul were being 
torn from me. O sovereign artifice of the Lord, with what subtle 
diligence dost Thou work upon Thy miserable slave ! Thou didst 
hide Thyself from me, and out of Thy love didst oppress me with a 
death so delectable that my soul's desire was never to escape 
from it. 

No one who has not experienced these vehement impulses can 
possibly understand this: it is no question of physical restlessness 

1 This cross was later given by St. Teresa's sister Juana to Dona Maria Enriquez de 
Toledo, Duchess of Alba. After the Duchess's death the Gannelites claimed possession 
of it and until the end of the eighteenth century it -was preserved in their Valladolid 
convent. It was lost during the religious persecutions of 1835. 


within the breast, or of uncontrollable devotional feelings which 
occur frequently and seem to stifle the spirit. That is prayer 
of a much lower kind, and we should check such quickenings 
of emotion by endeavouring gently to turn them into inward 
recollection and to keep the soul hushed and still. Such prayer 
is like the violent sobbing of children: they seem as if they are 
going to choke, but if they are given something to drink their 
superabundant emotion is checked immediately. So it is here: 
reason must step in and take the reins, for it may be that this 
is partly accountable for by the temperament. On reflection 
comes a fear that there is some imperfection, which may in great 
part be due to the senses. So this child must be hushed with 
a loving caress which will move it to a gentle kind of love; 
it must not, as they say, be driven at the point of the fist. Its 
love must find an outlet in interior recollection and not be 
allowed to boil right over like a pot to which fuel has been 
applied indiscriminately. The fire must be controlled at its 
source and an endeavour must be made to quench the flame with 
gentle tears, not with tears caused by affliction, for these proceed 
from the emotions already referred to and do a great deal of 
harm. I used at first to shed tears of this kind, which left my 
brain so distracted and my spirit so wearied that for a day or 
more I was not fit to return to prayer. Great discretion, then, 
is necessary at first so that everything may proceed gently and the 
operations of the spirit may express themselves interiorly; great 
care should be taken to prevent operations of an exterior kind. 

These other impulses are very different. It is not we who put 
on the fuel; it seems rather as if the fire is already kindled and 
it is we who are suddenly thrown into it to be burned up. The soul 
does not try to feel the pain of the wound caused by the Lord's 
absence. Rather an arrow is driven into the very depths of the 
entrails, and sometimes into the heart, so that the soul does not 
know either what is the matter with it or what it desires. It 
knows quite well that it desires God and that the arrow seems to 
have been dipped in some drug which leads it to hate itself for 
the love of this Lord so that it would gladly lose its life for Him. 
No words will suffice to describe the way in which God wounds 
the soul and the sore distress which He causes it, so that it hardly 
knows what it is doing. Yet so delectable is this distress that life 
holds no delight which can give greater satisfaction. As I have 
said, the soul would gladly be dying of this ill. 

This distress and this bliss between them bewildered me so 
mjich that I was never able to understand how such a thing could 
bel Oh, what it is to see a wounded soul I mean when it under- 
stands its condition sufficiently to be able to describe itself as 

1 92 LIFE [CHAP. 

wounded for so excellent a cause! It sees clearly that this love 
has come to it through no act of its own, but that, from the 
exceeding great love which the Lord bears it, a spark seems 
suddenly to have fallen upon it and to have set it wholly on fire. 
Oh, how often, when in this state, do I remember that verse of 
David: Quemadmodum desiderat cewus ad fontes aquarum^ which I 
seem to see fulfilled literally in myself! 

When these impulses are not very strong they appear to calm 
down a little, or, at any rate, the soul seeks some relief from them 
because it knows not what to do. It performs certain penances, 
but is quite unable to feel them, while the shedding of its blood 
causes it no more distress than if its body were dead. It seeks 
ways and means whereby it may express something of what it feels 
for the love of God; but its initial pain is so great that I know of no 
physical torture which can drown it. There is no relief to be found 
in these medicines: they are quite inadequate for so sublime an 
ill. 2 A certain alleviation of the pain is possible, which may 
cause some of it to pass away, if the soul begs God to grant it 
relief from its ill, though it sees none save death, by means of 
which it believes it can have complete fruition of its Good. At 
other times the impulses are so strong that the soul is unable to do 
either this or anything else. The entire body contracts and neither 
arm nor foot can be moved. If the subject is on his feet, he remains 
as though transported and cannot even breathe: all he does is to 
moan not aloud, for that is impossible, but inwardly, out of 

It pleased the Lord that I should sometimes see the following 
vision. I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in 
bodily form a type of vision which I am not in the habit of 
seeing, except very rarely. Though I often see representations of 
angels, my visions of them are of the type which I first mentioned. 
It pleased the Lord that I should see this angel in the following 
way. He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful, his face so 
aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel 
who seem to be all afire. They must be those who are called 
cherubim: 8 they do not tell me their names but I am well aware 
that there is a great difference between certain angels and others, 
and between these and others still, of a kind that I could not 
possibly explain. In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at 
the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With " 

1 Psalm xli, i [A.V., xlii, i] : "As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, 
so my soul panteth after thee, O God." 

* [&, "too low for so high an ill."] 

9 St. Teresa wrote '"Cherubims", but P. Bdnez added the marginal note: **it 
seems more like those which are called Seraphims ", and Fray Luis de Le6n, in his 
edition, adopted this form. 


this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it pene- 
trated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was 
drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a 
great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter 
several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by 
this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's 
soul be content with anything less than God. It is not bodily 
pain, but spiritual, though the body has a share in it indeed, 
a great share. So sweet are the colloquies of love which pass 
between the soul and God that if anyone thinks I am lying I 
beseech God, in His goodness, to give him the same experience. 1 
During the days that this continued, I went about as if in a 
stupor. I had no wish to see or speak with anyone, but only to 
hug my pain, which caused me greater bliss than any that can 
come from the whole of creation, I was like this on several 
occasions, when the Lord was pleased to send me these raptures, 
and so deep were they that, even when I was with other people, 
I could not resist them; so, greatly to my distress, they began to be 
talked about. Since I have had them, I do not feel this pain so 
much, but only the pain of which I spoke somewhere before 
I do not remember in what chapter. 2 The latter is, in many 
respects, very different from this, and of greater worth. But, 
when this pain of which I am now speaking begins, the Lord 
seems to transport the soul and to send it into an ecstasy, so that 
it cannot possibly suffer or have any pain because it immediately 
begins to experience fruition. May He be blessed for ever, Who 
bestows so many favours on one who so ill requites such great 

1 [P. Silverio dates this occurrence "about 1562" but gives no evidence for the date, 
and I see none. An earlier year (1559-60) is more usually given.] Carmelite tradition 
has it that St. Teresa received the same favour again while Prioress of the Incarnation, 
between 1571 and 1574. The heart of the Saint has not unnaturally been the subject 
of the most extraordinary inventions. [Some of these are described by P. Silverio.] 
On May 25, 1726, Pope Benedict XIII appointed a festival and office for the Trans- 
verberation, which is observed on August 27. First instituted for the Discalced 
Carmelites, it was extended to Spain as a whole by Clement XII on December 1 1, 

"Chap. XX. 

194 LIFE [CHAP. 


Takes up the course of her life again and tells how the Lord granted her 
great relief from her trials by bringing her a visit from the holy man 
Fray Peter of Alcdntara, of the Order of the glorious Saint Francis. 
Discusses the severe temptations and interior trials which she some- 
times suffered. 

Now when I saw that I could do little or nothing to stop my- 
self from experiencing these violent impulses, I began to be 
afraid of them, for I could not understand how distress and con- 
tentment could go together. I already knew that it was quite 
possible for physical distress and spiritual contentment to exist 
together in the same person but it bewildered me to experience 
such excessive spiritual distress and with it such intense joy. 
Though I still did not cease striving to resist, I could do so little 
that it sometimes fatigued me. I used to seek the protection of the 
Cross and to try to defend myself against Him Who through the 
Cross became the Protector of us aU. I saw that no one under- 
stood me, though I understood it very clearly myself; I did not 
dare, however, to speak of it save to my confessor, for to have done 
so would certainly have been to proclaim that I had no humility. 

The Lord was pleased to grant me relief from a great part 
of my trials, and, for the time being, from all of them, by bringing 
to this place the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara, whom I mentioned 
earlier when I said something about his penitential life: among 
other things, I have been assured that for twenty years he con- 
tinuously wore a shirt made of iron. 1 He i$ the author of some 
little books on prayer, written in Spanish, 2 which are being used 
a great deal nowadays; as he was a man with great experience 
of prayer, his writings are very profitable for those who practise 
it. He kept the Primitive Rule of the blessed Saint Francis in all 
its rigour, as well as doing those other things of which something 
has already been said. 

In due course that servant of God the widow of whom I have 
spoken and who was a friend of mine 3 learned that this great 
man was here. She knew of my necessities, for she was a witness 
of my afflictions and used to afford me great consolation, her 
faith being so strong that she could not believe that what most 

1 [Hoja de latai lit , "tinplate."] 

*[Thc only one of these "little books" still extant is the Treatise of Prayer and 
Medttation- S.S M., II, 106.] 
8 Dona Guiomar de UUoa. 

XXX] LIFE 195 

people said was of the devil was really the work of the Spirit of 
God; and, as she is a person of very great intelligence and is also 
most discreet and was receiving many favours from the Lord in 
prayer, His Majesty was pleased to enlighten her upon matters of 
which learned men were ignorant. My confessors gave me 
permission to relieve my mind by talking to her about certain 
things, because for a multitude of reasons she was a suitable 
person for such confidences. She sometimes shared in the favours 
which the Lord was granting me and would receive counsels 
which were of great benefit to her soul. Well, when she learned 
that this holy man was here, she said nothing to me but obtained 
leave from my Provincial for me to stay with her for a week so as 
to give me a better opportunity of consulting him. So on this 
occasion of his first visit I had many talks with him, both in her 
house and in several churches, and later I had a great deal to do 
with him on many occasions. I gave him a summary account 
of my life and method of prayer with the greatest clarity of which 
I was capable ; for I have always acted on the principle of speaking 
with the utmost clarity and truth to those whom I consult about 
my soul. I would ajways try to reveal to them its very first 
motions and tell them even the most dubious and suspicious 
things about myself: indeed, in discussing these matters with 
them I would put forward arguments which told against me. I 
was able, therefore, to reveal my soul to Fray Peter without 
duplicity or concealment. 

Almost from the beginning, I saw that, out of his own exper- 
ience, he understood me. And that was all I needed; for I did not 
understand myself then as I do now, and I could not describe 
what I was experiencing. Since that time God has granted me tixe 
ability to understand and describe the favours which His Majesty 
sends me. But just then I needed someone who had gone through 
it all himself, for such a person alone could understand me and 
interpret my experiences. He enlightened me wonderfully about 
them. I had been unable, at least as regards the visions which 
were not imaginary, to understand what they could all mean: 
I did not see how I could understand the nature of visions which 
I saw with the eyes of the soul, for s as I have said, I had thought 
that only visions which can be seen with the bodily eyes are of any 
importance, and of these I had none. 

This holy man enlightened me about the whole matter, ex- 
plained it all to me and told me not to be distressed but to praise 
God and be quite certain that it was the work of the Spirit; 
with the exception of the Faith, he said, there could be nothing 
truer, and Nothing in which I could more confidently believe. 
He derived great happiness from what I said to him, was helpful 

196 LIFE [CHAP. 

and kind to me in every way and ever afterwards took a great 
interest in me and told me about his own affairs and undertakings. 
When he saw that I had desires which he himself had already 
carried into effect for the Lord had bestowed very resolute 
desires upon me and when he found, too, that I was so full of 
courage, he delighted in talking to me about these things. For 
if the Lord brings anyone to this state he will find no pleasure or 
comfort equal to that of meeting with another whom he believes 
He has brought along the first part of the same road for at this 
time I could not, I think, have gone much farther than that: 
please God I may still be as far advanced as I was then. 

He had the greatest compassion on me. He told me that the 
trial I had been suffering that is to say, the opposition of good 
people was one of the severest in the world and that there would 
be many more such trials awaiting me. I should therefore have 
continual need of someone who understood me and there was no 
such person in this city, but he would speak to the priest to whom 
I made my confessions, and also to one of those who caused me 
the deepest distress namely, that married man of whom I have 
already spoken. The latter, just because he bore me the greatest 
goodwill, opposed me more than anyone else: being a holy and 
God-fearing 1 soul, and having so recently seen how wicked I was, 
he could not bring himself to have any confidence about me. 
The saintly man did as he had said he would: he spoke to them 
both and put reasons and arguments before them as to why they 
should be reassured about me and not cause me any more dis- 
quiet. My confessor hardly needed the advice. This gentleman, 
however, even when he had heard it, was not completely con- 
vinced, but it was sufficient to prevent him from frightening me 
as much as he had been doing. 

We arranged Fray Peter and I that from that time onward 
I should write and tell him of anything that happened to me 
and that we should commend each other earnestly to God; for so 
great was his humility that he thought that there was value in 
the prayers of this miserable creature, which made me very much 
ashamed. He left me greatly comforted and very happy, telling 
me to continue confidently in prayer and not to doubt that the 
prayer came from God. For my greater security, I was to report 
any doubts I might have to my confessor; and, provided I did 
this, I should feel safe all my life. I was unable, however, to 
experience this feeling of complete security, for the Lord was lead- 
ing me by the road of fear, with the result that, whenever I was 

1 [This word, temerosa, might also be translated " timorous ", "timid" but St. 
Teresa's use of "and", rather than of "but", to' connect it with "holy'* seems to 
indicate the meaning given in the text.] 

XXX] LIFE 197 

told that the devil was deceiving me, I would believe it. In 
reality, none of my advisers was able to make me feel either 
afraid enough or secure enough to believe in him rather than in 
the feelings which the Lord implanted in my soul. So, although 
Fray Peter comforted and calmed me, I had not sufficient trust 
in him to be wholly without fear, especially when the Lord left 
me with the spiritual trials which I shall now describe. But, on 
the whole, as I say, I was greatly comforted. I was never weary 
of giving thanks to God and to my glorious father Saint Joseph, 
who seemed to me to have brought Fray Peter here, as he was 
Commissary General of the Custody 1 of Saint Joseph, to whom, 
as to Our Lady, I used often to commend myself. I had sometimes 
to endure and still have, though to a lesser degree the sorest 
spiritual trials, together with bodily pains and tortures, so severe 
that I could do nothing to ease them. At other times I suffered 
from more grievous bodily ills, and, if I had no spiritual distress, 
I bore these with great joy. It was when both kinds of distress 
came upon me together that my trials were so great and caused 
me such deep depression. I would forget all the favours that the 
Lord had bestowed upon me: nothing would remain with me 
but the mere recollection of them, like the memory of a dream, 
and this was a great distress to me. For, when a person is in this 
condition, the understanding becomes stupid; and so I was 
tormented by a thousand doubts and suspicions. I thought that 
I had not understood it properly, and that it might have been my 
fancy, and that it was bad enough for me to be deluded myself, 
without deluding good men as well. I felt I was so evil that I 
began to think that all the evils and heresies that had arisen were 
due to my sins. 

This is a false humility; and it was invented by the devil so 
that he might unsettle me and see if he could drive my soul to 
despair. I have had so much experience by now of the devil's 
work that he sees I know his tricks and so he troubles me much 
less with this kind of torture than he used to. His part in it is 
evident from the disquiet and unrest with which it begins, from 
the turmoil which he creates in the soul for so long as his influence 
lasts, and from, the darkness and affliction into which he plunges 
it, causing it an aridity and an ill-disposition for prayer and for 
everything that is good. He seems to stifle the soul and to con- 
strain the body, and thus to render both powerless. For, though 
the soul is conscious of its own wretchedness and it distresses us 
to see what we are and our wickedness seems to us to be of the 
worst possible kind as bad as that which has just been described 

1 [The Franciscan term for a group of religious houses not large enough to form a 


and we feel it very deeply, yet genuine humility does not produce 
inward turmoil, nor does it cause unrest in the soul, or bring it 
darkness or aridity: on the contrary, it cheers it and produces 
in it the opposite effects quietness, sweetness and light. Though 
it causes us distress, we are comforted to see what a great favour 
God is granting us by sending us that distress and how well the 
soul is occupied. Grieved as it is at having offended God, it is 
also encouraged by Has mercy. It is sufficiently enlightened to 
feel ashamed, but it praises His Majesty, Who for so long has 
borne with it. In that other humility, which is the work of the 
devil, the soul has not light enough to do anything good and thinks 
of God as of one who is always wielding fire and sword. It 
pictures God's righteousness, and, although it has faith in His 
mercy, for the devil is not powerful enough to make it lose its 
faith, yet this is not such as to bring me consolation, for, when my 
soul considers God's mercy, this only increases its torment, since 
I realize that it involves me in greater obligations. 1 

This is an invention of the devil, and one of the most grievous 
and subtle and dissembling that I have found in him, and so I 
should lite to warn Your Reverence of it, so that, if he should 
tempt you in this way, you may have some light, and may 
recognize his hand, if he leaves you sufficient understanding 
for doing so. Do not suppose that learning and knowledge have 
anything to do with this, for I am wholly destitute of both, and yet, 
after escaping from the devil's wiles, I see quite clearly that this 
is folly. What I have learned is that the Lord is pleased to give 
him permission and leave to tempt us, just as He gave him 
leave to tempt Job, although, being so wicked, I am not myself 
tempted as severely as that. 

I have, however, been tempted in this way once, I remember, 
on the day before the vigil of Corpus Ghristi, a festival to which 
I am devoted, though not so much so as I ought to be. On that 
occasion the temptation lasted only until the day of the festival: 
on other occasions it has lasted for a week or a fortnight, or even 
perhaps for three weeks, or it may have been even longer. In 
particular it used to come during Holy Week, a time when I 
would derive great comfort from prayer. What happens on such 
occasions is that the devil suddenly lays hold on my understanding, 
sometimes by making use of things so trifling that at any other 
time I should laugh at them. He confuses the understanding and 
does whatever he likes with it, so that the soul, fettered as it is 
and no longer its own mistress, can think of nothing but the 
absurdities which he presents to it things of no importance, 

1 [The sudden and characteristic change of person is reproduced exactly from the 

"--Trial 1 

XXX] LIFE 199 

which neither keep the soul in bondage nor allow it to be free, and 
enslave it only in the sense that they stupefy it until its control 
over itself is gone. It has sometimes seemed to me, indeed, that 
the devils behave as though they were playing ball with the sou! 3 
so incapable is it of freeing itself from their power. Its sufferings 
at such a time are indescribable. It goes about in search of 
relief and God allows it to find none; it has only the reasoning 
power derived from its free-will, and it is unable to reason 
clearly. I mean that its eyes seem to be almost blindfolded: it is 
like someone who has gone along a particular road again and 
again, so that, even if it is night, and quite dark, he knows by the 
instinct which comes from experience where he is likely to stumble, 
for he has seen the road by day and is therefore on his guard 
against that danger. Just so the soul, in avoiding giving offence to 
God, seems to be walking by habit. This explanation, however, 
leaves out of account the fact that the Lord has it in His keeping, 
which is the thing that matters. 

At such a time, faith, like all the other virtues, is quite numbed 
and asleep. It is not lost, for the soul has a firm belief in what 
is held by the Church; but, though it can testify with the mouth, 
it seems in other respects to be oppressed and stupefied, and it 
feels as if it knows God only as something of which it has heard 
from afar off. So lukewarm does its love become that, if it hears 
Him spoken of, it listens, believing that He is Who He is, because 
this is held by the Church, but it retains no memory of its own 
experiences of Him. To go and say its prayers, or to be alone, only 
causes it greater anguish, for the inward torture which it feels, 
without knowing the source of it, is intolerable; and, in my 
opinion, bears some slight resemblance to hell. Indeed this is a 
fact, for the Lord revealed it to me in a vision: the soul is in- 
wardly burning, without knowing who has kindled the fire, nor 
whence it comes, nor how to flee from it, nor with what to put it 
out. In vain does it seek a remedy in reading: it might as well be 
unable to read at all. Once I chanced to take up the Life of a saint, 
to see if I could become absorbed in the reading of it and find 
comfort in thinking of the saint's sufferings* But I read four or 
five lines as many times, and, though they were in Spanish, I 
understood less of them at the end than at the beginning; so I 
gave it up. This happened to me on many occasions but I have 
a particular recollection of that one. 

To engage in conversation with anyone is worse still, for the 
devil then makes me so peevish and ill-tempiered that I seem to 
want to snap everyone up. I cannot help this, but if I can keep 
myself in hand I feel I am doing something, or rather that the 
Lord is doing something when His hand restrains anyone in this 

200 LIFE [CHAP. 

condition from saying or doing anything which may harm his 
neighbour or offend God. Then again, it is certainly useless to 
go to one's confessor. I will tell you what often happened to me. 
Saintly as were those whom I was consulting at that time, and am 
consulting still, they would say such things to me, and reprove 
me with such asperity that, when I spoke to them about it later, 
they were astonished at it themselves but said that they had been 
unable to do otherwise. For, although they had previously made 
up their minds not to speak to me like this, and afterwards would 
be sorry they had done so, and even feel scruples about it because 
of these bodily and spiritual trials which I was suffering, the 
resolutions they had made to comfort me with words of com- 
passion would fall to the ground. 

The words they used were not wrong not offensive, I mean, 
to God but they were the strongest words of displeasure per- 
missible in a confessor. Their aim must have been to mortify 
me, and, although at other times I delighted in mortification 
and was well able to bear it, it was now pure torture to me. Then, 
too, I used to think I was deceiving them, so I would go and warn 
them most earnestly to be on their guard against me in case I 
might be doing so. I knew quite well that I would not deceive 
them intentionally, or tell them a lie, but I was thoroughly 
afraid. One of them, realizing how I was being tempted, once 
told me not to be distressed, for, even if I tried to deceive him, he 
had discernment enough not to allow himself to be deceived. 1 
This was a great comfort to me. 

Sometimes almost habitually, indeed, or at least very fre- 
quently- I would find relief after communicating. There were 
times, in fact, when the very act of approaching the Sacrament 
would at once make me feel so well, both in soul and in body, 
that I was astounded. I would feel as if all the darkness in my soul 
had suddenly been dispersed and the sun had come out' and 
shown me the stupidity of the things I had been saying and 
doing. At other times, if the Lord spoke only one word to me (if, 
for example, as on the occasion I have already described, He said 
no more than "Be not troubled: have no fear"), that one word 
completely cured me, or, if I were to see some vision, it was 
as if there had been nothing wrong with me. I rejoiced in God 
and made my complaint to Him, asking Him how He could allow 
me to suffer such tortures, but telling Him that I was well re- 
warded for them, since, when they were over, I almost invariably 
received favours in great abundance. My soul seemed to emerge 
from the crucible like gold, both brighter and purer, to find the 
Lord within it. So trials like these, unbearable as they may seem, 

1 P. Baltasar Alvarez, according to Grac&n. 

XXX] LIFE 201 

eventually become light, and the soul becomes anxious to suffer 
again if by so doing it can render the Lord greater service. And, 
however numerous may be ,our troubles and persecutions, if we 
endure them without offending the Lord, but rejoice to suffer 
for His sake, they all work together for our greater gain though 
I do not myself bear them as they should be borne, but in a way 
which is most imperfect. 

On other occasions these temptations came to me in another 
fashion, as they do still. At such times as these I seem to have 
been totally deprived of the possibility of thinking a single good 
thought or of desiring to put it into practice. My soul and body 
seem to be completely useless and merely a burden to me. But 
I do not then have these other temptations and discomforts : only 
a feeling of dissatisfaction with what, I do not know so that 
there is nothing in which my soul can take pleasure. I used to 
try to occupy myself with the outward performance of good 
works, and I would half force myself to do these, and I know well 
how little a soul can do when it is without grace. This did not 
cause me great distress, for I derived some satisfaction from 
realizing my own baseness. At other times I find myself unable 
to formulate a single definite thought, other than quite a fleeting 
one, about God, or about anything good, or to engage in prayer, 
even when I am alone; yet none the less I feel that I know Him. 

It is the understanding and the imagination, I think, which 
are doing me harm here. My will, I believe, is good, and well- 
disposed to all good things; but this understanding is so depraved 
that it seems to be nothing but a raving lunatic nobody can 
repress it and I have not myself sufficient control of it to keep it 
quiet for a moment. Sometimes I laugh at myself and realize 
what a miserable creature I am and then I keep an eye on my 
understanding and leave it alone to see what it will do; and for a 
wonder glory be to God! it never occupies itself with evil 
things, but only with indifferent ones, looking round for things 
to thmk about here, there and everywhere. I then become more 
conscious of the- exceeding great favour which the Lord bestows 
on me when He keeps this lunatic bound and allows me to enjoy 
perfect contemplation. I sometimes reflect on what would happen 
if people who think of me as good were to see me in this condition 
of distraction. I am deeply grieved when I find that my soul 
is in such bad company. I want to see it free, so I say to the 
Lord: "When, my God, shall I at last see all the faculties of my 
soul united in Thy praise and having fruition of Thee? Permit 
my soul no longer, Lord, to be dispersed in fragments, with each 
fragment seeming to go its own way. This is an experience I 
often have, but sometimes I know quite well that my poor bodily 

202 LIFE [CHAP. 

health is having a great deal to do with it. I often think of the 
harm wrought in us by original sin; it is this, I believe, that has 
made us incapable of enjoying so much good all at once, and 
added to this are my own sins, for, had I not committed so many, 
I should have been more nearly perfect in goodness. 

There was another great trial, too, which I suffered. I used to 
think I understood all the books dealing with prayer which I 
read, and that, as the Lord had bestowed this gift of prayer 
upon me, I no longer needed them. So I left off reading them 
and read only lives of saints, for, as I find myself falling so far 
short of the saints in the service which they rendered to God, such 
reading helps me and spurs me on to do better. Then it would 
occur to me that it showed a great lack of humility to suppose 
that I had received that gift of prayer, and, as I could not succeed 
in persuading myself of the contrary, I was greatly distressed, 
until learned men, and the blessed Fray Peter of Alcantara, 
told me not to let it trouble me. I realize perfectly that, although 
in granting me favours His Majesty treats me as He does many 
good people, I have not yet begun to serve Him, and that I am 
nothing but imperfection except in desire and love, with regard 
to which I know well the Lord has helped me so that I may render 
Him some service. I do really believe I love Him, but my actions 
and the many imperfections which I find in myself discourage 

At other times my soul is troubled by what I should call a 
kind of foolishness : I seem to be doing neither good nor evil, 
but to be following the crowd, as they say, without experiencing 
either suffering or bliss. I care not whether I live or die, nor 
whether I experience pleasure or pain: I seem to feel nothing* 
The soul appears to me to be like a little ass, feeding and sustain- 
ing its life by means of the food which is given it and which it eats 
almost unconsciously. For the soul in this state cannot do other- 
wise than feed on some of God's great favours ; it does not mind 
living this miserable life and bears its existence with equanimity, 
but it is quite unconscious of any motions or effects which might 
help it to understand its condition. 

This, it now seems to me, is like sailing with a very calm wind: 
one makes great headway, but without knowing how, whereas 
in these other experiences the effects are so noticeable that the 
soul almost immediately becomes conscious of its improvement, 
for the desires begin at once to be aroused and the soul is never 
folly satisfied. This is the result of the violent impulses of love, 
which I have already mentioned, in those to whom God gives 
them. It reminds me of little springs which I have seen gushing 
up and which keep on incessantly stirring up the sand all around 

XXX] LIFE 203 

them. This, I think, is a very lifelike illustration or comparison 
to apply to souls which attain to this state. Love is continually 
bubbling up in them and thinking of the things it will do : it 
cannot remain where it is, just as the spring-water seems unable to 
remain in the earth, but issues forth from it. Just so, as a general 
rule, is it with the soul: such is the love it has that it can find no 
rest, nor can it contain itself, and it has already saturated the 
earth around. It would like others to drink of its love, since it has 
itself no lack of it, so that they might help it to praise God, Oh, 
how often do I remember the living water of which the Lord 
spoke to the woman of Samaria! I am so fond of that Gospel. 
I have loved it ever since I was quite a child though I did not, 
of course, understand it properly then, as I do now and I used 
often to beseech the Lord to give me that water. I had a picture 
of the Lord at the well, which hung where I could always see it, 
and bore the inscription: "Domine, da mihi aquam." 1 

This love is also like a great fire, which has always to be fed 
lest it should go out. Just so with the souls I am describing: 
cost them what it might, they would always want to be bringing 
wood, so that this fire should not die. For my own part, I am 
the sort of person who would be satisfied if she had even straw to 
throw upon it, and it is sometimes often, indeed like that with 
me. Now I am laughing; now I am greatly troubled. An inward 
impulse moves me to serve God in some way, but I am useless 
except for decking images with branches of trees and flowers, 
or for sweeping or tidying an oratory or doing other trifling things 
which I am ashamed of. If I did anything in the way of penance, 
it wa all so insignificant that, unless the Lord would take the 
will for the deed, I realized how completely worthless it was and 
scoffed at my own self. It is no small trial, then, for souls to whom 
God in His goodness grants an abundance of this fire of His 
love, that they should lack bodily strength to enable them to do 
anything for Him. It is a very great grief; for, when a soul lacks 
the strength to throw any wood on this fire, and is frightened to 
death lest it should go out, I think it becomes consumed itself 
and turns into ashes, or melts into tears, and is burned up; 
and this, though delectable, is severe torture. 

Let the soul give great praise to the Lord when it has progressed 
as far as this, and when He has granted it bodily strength to 
enable it to do penance, or given it learning and talent and 
freedom to preach, hear confessions and bring souls to God. 

1 St. John iv. 15: "Sir, give me this water." These words, which form part of the 
Gospel for the Friday after the third Sunday in Lent, the Saint could have read as a 
child beneath a picture of the scene in the Gospel, On her father's death the picture 
was given to the Convent of the Incarnation, -where it is still preserved. 

204 LIFE [CHAP. 

It has no knowledge or understanding of the blessing it possesses 
if it has not learned by experience what it is to be able to do noth- 
ing in the Lord's service and always to be receiving so much 
from Him. May He be blessed for all things and may the angels 
glorify Him. Amen. 

I do not know if I am doing right to say so much about trifles. 
As Your Reverence has again sent me a message telling me not to 
mind writing at length and to omit nothing, I am continuing 
to give a true and clear description of everything that I remember. 
But I cannot help omitting a great deal, for otherwise I should 
have to devote much more time to this (and, as I said, I have 
so little time) without perhaps doing any good by it. 


Treats of certain outward temptations and representations made to her 
by the devil and of tortures which he caused her. Discusses likewise 
several matters which are extremely useful for people to know if they 
are walking on the road to perfection. 

Having described certain secret and inward disturbances and 
temptations inflicted upon me by the devil I shall now speak of 
others which he brought upon me almost in public and in which 
it was impossible not to detect his hand. 

Once, when I was in an oratory, he appeared on my left hand 
in an abominable form; as he spoke to me, I paid particular 
attention to his mouth, which was horrible. Out of his body 
there seemed to be coming a great flame, which was intensely 
bright and cast no shadow. He told me in a horrible way that I 
had indeed escaped out of his hands but he would get hold of me 
still. I was very much afraid and made the sign of the Gross 
as well as I could, whereupon he disappeared, but immediately 
returned again. This happened twice running and I did not 
know what to do. But there was some holy water there, so I 
flung some in the direction of the apparition, and it never came 
back. On another occasion the devil was with me for five hours, 
torturing me with such terrible pains and both inward and 
outward disquiet that I do not believe I could have endured 
them any longer. The sisters who were with me were frightened 
to death and had no more idea of what to do for. me than I had 
of how to help myself. 

When the pains and the bodily suffering are quite intolerable, 
my custom is to make interior acts as well as I can, and to be- 


seech the Lord, if it be His Majesty's good pleasure, to give me 
patience if only I have that I can keep on suffering in this 
way until the very end of the world. So, when on this occasion 
I found myself suffering so severely, I took to these acts and 
resolutions, using them as means which would enable me to bear 
the pain. The Lord evidently meant me to realize that this 
was the work of the devil, for I saw beside me a most hideous 
little negro, snarling as if in despair at having lost what he was 
trying to gain. When I saw him, I laughed and was not afraid. 
Some of the sisters who were with me were helpless and had no 
idea how to relieve such torture; for the devU had made me 
pound the air 1 with my body, head and arms and I had been 
powerless to resist him. But the worst thing had been the interior 
disquiet: I could find no way of regaining my tranquillity. I 
was afraid to ask for holy water, lest I should frighten my com- 
panions and they should discover what was wrong. 

From long experience I have learned that there is nothing 
like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from 
coining back again. They also flee from the Gross, but return; so 
holy water must have great virtue. For my own part, whenever 
I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. 
In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment 
which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy 
which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something 
which has happened to me only once: it has happened again 
and again and I have observed it most attentively. It is, let us 
say, as if someone very hot and thirsty were to drink From a jug 
of cold water: he would feel the refreshment throughout his body. 
I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained 
by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those 
words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power 
to the water and make it so very different from water which has 
not been blessed. 

Well, as my tortures did not cease, I said: u If you wouldn't 
laugh at me, I should ask for some holy water." So they brought 
me some and sprinkled me with it but it did me no good* Then I 
sprinkled some in the direction of the place where the little negro 
was standing and immediately he disappeared and all my 
troubles went, just as if someone had lifted them from me 
with his hand, except that I was as tired as if I had been dealt 
a great many blows. It edified me greatly to find that, when 
the Lord gives him permission, the devil can do so much harm 
to a soul and a body which are not his. For what, then, I 
thought, will he not do when he has them in his possession? 
1 [I**.: "had made me give great blows."] 

206 LIFE [CHAP. 

And I felt a renewed desire lo be freed from such pernicious 

On another occasion, quite recently, the same thing happened 
to me, though it did not last so long and I was alone. I asked for 
holy water, and, after the devils had gone away, the next persons 
to come in (two nuns who may safely be believed, for they 
would not tell a lie for anything) noticed a very bad smell, like 
brimstone. I could not detect it myself but it had remained there 
long enough for them to have noticed it. On another occasion 
I was in choir when I felt a vehement impulse towards recollec- 
tion. I went out, so that the sisters should not observe it, but all 
who were near me heard sounds where I was, like the noise of 
heavy blows, and I myself heard voices near me as though people 
were discussing something. I could not hear what they were 
saying, however: so deeply immersed was I in prayer that I 
heard nothing at all and I was not in the least afraid. This 
happened nearly always at times when the Lord was granting 
me the favour of allowing some soul, through my agency, to be 
making progress. What I ana now going to describe is something 
which actually happened to me; and there are many people 
who will bear witness to this, in particular my present confessor, 1 
who saw a written account of the occurrence in a letter. I did not 
tell him who the author of the letter was, but he knew quite well. 

A person came to me who for two and a half years had been 
living in mortal sin one of the most abominable sins that I had 
ever heard of and during the whole of that time he neither 
confessed it nor amended his life, and yet went on saying Mass. 
And, though he confessed his other sins, when it came to that one, 
he would ask himself how he could possibly confess such a dread- 
ful thing. He had a great desire to give it up but could not bring 
himself to do so. I was terribly sorry for him and very much 
distressed to find that God was being offended in such a way. I 
promised him that I would pray earnestly to God that He would 
help him and that I would get other people better than myself 
to do so too, and I wrote to a certain person who, he said, would 
be able to distribute the letters. And, lo and behold, at the first 
possible moment, he confessed; for through the many most saintly 
persons who at my request had prayed to Him on his behalf 
God was pleased to bestow this mercy upon his soul, and I, 
miserable though I am, had done what I could and taken the 
greatest pains about it. He wrote to me and said that he was now 
so much better that days passed without his falling into this sin, 
but he was suffering such tortures from temptation that his 

1 This would be either P. Bnez or P. Garcia de Toledo, who were the Saint's 
confessors from about 1563 to 1566. 


distress made him feel as if he were already in hell; and lie 
asked me to commend him to God. I spoke about it again to my 
sisters, through whose prayers the Lord must have granted me 
this favour,, and they took it very much to heart. (None of them 
could guess who he was.) 1 I begged His Majesty that these 
tortures and temptations might be assuaged and the devils 
be sent to torture me instead, provided I gave no offence to the 
Lord. This led me to suffer a month of the severest tortures and 
it was during that time that the two incidents happened which I 
have described. 

It was the Lord's good pleasure that the devils should leave 
him; this I learned from letters, for I wrote to tell him what had 
been happening to me during the past month. His soul took new 
strength and he remained completely free from his sin and was 
never tired of giving thanks to the Lord and to me, as if I had done 
anything for him, unless he was helped by his belief that the 
Lord was granting me favours. He said that, when he found 
himself sorely oppressed, he would read my letters, and the 
temptation would leave him, and added that he was astounded 
to hear of what I had suffered and of how he had been delivered. 
I was astounded myself, for that matter, and I would have gone 
through as much for many years longer to set that soul free. May 
He be praised for everything, for the prayers of those who serve 
the Lord can do a great deal and I believe the sisters in this 
house do indeed serve Him. But the devils must have loosed 
most of their wrath on me because all this happened through 
my agency and the Lord permitted me to suffer on account of 
my sins. 

One night, too, about this time, I thought the devils were 
stifling me; and when the nuns had sprinkled a great deal of holy 
water about I saw a huge crowd of them running away as quickly 
as though they were about to fling themselves down a steep place. 
So often have these accursed creatures tormented me and so little 
am I afraid of them, now that I see they cannot stir unless the 
Lord allows them to, that I should weary Your Reverence, and 
weary myself too, if I were to talk about them any further. 

May what I have said help the true servant of God to make 
little account of these horrors, which the devils present us with in 
order to make us afraid. Let him realize that, every time we pay 
little heed to them, they lose much of their power and the soul 
gains much more control over them. We always derive some great 

1 [The brackets here are mine. The sentence is an excellent example (and there 
are many others in the Life) of St. Teresa's inconseqtSent way of writing. An idea 
comes into her head and at once she writes it down, even if (which is not the case here) 
doing so completely dislocates her sentence.] 

208 LIFE [CHAP. 

benefit from these experiences, but of this benefit I will say 
nothing lest I should write too fully. I will only describe some- 
thing that happened to me one night of All Souls. I was in an 
oratory: I had said one nocturn and was repeating some very 
devotional prayers which follow it they are extremely devo- 
tional: we have them in our office-book when actually the devil 
himself alighted on the book, to prevent me from finishing the 
prayer, I made the sign of the Gross and he went away. I then 
began again and he caine back. I think I began that prayer 
three times and not until I had sprinkled some holy water on 
him could I finish it. At the same moment I saw several souls 
coming out of purgatory: their time there must have been nearly 
up and I thought that perhaps the devil was trying to impede 
their deliverance. I have seldom seen him in bodily shape, but 
I have often seen him without any form, as in the kind of vision 
I have described, in which no form is seen but the object is 
known to be there. 

I want also to describe the following incident, which caused 
me great alarm. One Trinity Sunday, I was in the choir of a 
certain convent, and, while in a rapture, I saw a great battle 
between devils and angels. I could not understand the meaning 
of that vision, but before a fortnight had passed it had become 
clear that it referred to a conflict that had taken place between 
some persons who practised prayer and others who did not, which 
did the house great harm. It was a conflict which lasted a long 
time and caused a great deal of commotion. On other occasions 
I saw around me a great multitude of devils, and yet I seemed to 
be enveloped by a great light, which prevented them from 
coming nearer. I realized that God was guarding me so that they 
should not come near me and thus make me offend Him. From 
what I sometimes saw in myself, I knew the vision was a genuine 
one. The fact is, I realize so clearly now how little power the 
devils have, if I am not fighting against God, that I am hardly 
afraid of them at all: for their strength is nothing unless they find 
souls surrendering to them and growing cowardly, in which 
case they do indeed show their power. Sometimes, during the 
temptations I have already described, I would feel as if afi my 
vanities and weaknesses of times past were re-awakening in me, 
and then I certainly had to commend myself to God. Until 
my confessor set my fears at rest, I was tormented by the idea 
that, because these thoughts came into my mind, I must be 
wholly possessed by the devil. For it seemed to me that not 
even the first impulse towards an evil thought ought to come to 
one on whom the Lord had bestowed so many favours. At other 
times I was greatly tormented and I still am even now by 


finding myself thought so much of, especially by people of 
importance, and so much good said of me. I have suffered a 
great deal from this, and suffer from it still. At such times I turn 
straight to the life of Christ and to the lives of the saints and realize 
that I am travelling in the opposite direction from that which they 
took, for they experienced nothing but contempt and insults. 
This makes me proceed very fearfully and as one who dares not lift 
her head, for I do not want to seem to be doing what I am not. 

When I am undergoing persecutions, my body suffers and I am 
afflicted in other ways, but my soul is completely mistress of 
itself to an extent that I should not have thought possible. But 
that is how it is : on such occasions the soul seems to be in its own 
kingdom and to have all things under its feet. This happened 
to me several times and lasted for quite a number of days: it 
seemed to be a kind of virtue, and humility, but I can now see 
quite well that it was a temptation. A Dominican friar,, who 
was a very learned man, gave me a clear explanation of this. 
When I thought that a knowledge of these favours which the Lord 
is granting me might become public, my torture grew so excessive 
that it greatly disturbed my soul. Such a pitch did it reach that, 
when I dwelt on the matter, I decided I would rather be buried 
alive than endure this. So, when these raptures or these periods 
of deep recollection began, and I could not resist them, even in 
public, I would become so ashamed after they were over as to 
want not to appear where anyone would see me. 

Once, when I was very much troubled about this, the Lord 
asked me what I was afraid of, for only two things could happen 
people would either speak ill of me or praise Him. He meant that 
those who believed it was His work would praise Him, and those 
who did not would condemn me without my having done wrong, 
and that either course would be advantageous to me and therefore 
I must not be troubled. This calmed me a great deal and when- 
ever I think of it it still comforts me. The temptation reached 
such a point that I wanted to leave this place and go and take 
my dowry to another convent, much more strictly enclosed 
than the one I was then in, which I had heard remarkably well 
spoken of. It belonged to my own Order and was a long way 
away; it is the distance that would have given me the greatest 
relief, for I should have been where nobody knew me. 1 But iny 
confessor never allowed me to go. 

1 P. Federico de S. Antonio (Vita della Santa Madre Teresa di Gcsii, Bk. I, Chap. 
XXII) thinks the Saint had contemplated going to a convent in Flanders or Brittany. 
The Parisian Carmelites (Qcuores de Sainte TTtfrtse, Vol. I, p. 409) suggest that she had 
in mind a convent established near Nantes, in 1477, by B. Francoise d*Amboise. But 
there seems no reason to assume that she ever thought of going to a house outside 

2io LIFE [CHAP. 

These fears robbed me of much freedom of spirit; later I came 
to see that all this restlessness on my part was not real humility. 
And the Lord revealed this truth to me: that if I believed reso- 
lutely and with conviction that anything good in me was not mine 
at all but came from God, then, just as I was not troubled at 
hearing other people praised but rather rejoiced and took com- 
fort at seeing that God was showing His power in them, so, too, 
I should not be troubled if He were to show His works in me. 

I also fell victim to another excess of zeal, which was to beseech 
God, and to make it my special prayer, that when a person 
thought there was any good in me, His Majesty would reveal my 
sins to him, so that he might see how utterly undeserving I was 
of these favours which is always my great desire. My confessor 
told me not to do this; but I continued to do it almost down to 
this day. If I observed that someone was thinking very well of me, 
I would manage, indirectly or in any way that I could, to make 
him aware of my sins. That seemed to bring me relief. My sins 
have made me very scrupulous about this. 

This, however, I think, was not the result of humility, but often 
proceeded from a temptation. It seemed to me that I was 
deceiving everybody; and, though it is true that it was their own 
belief that there was some good in me which was deceiving them, 
I had no desire to deceive them, nor did I ever try to do so: 
for some reason the Lord permitted it. So, unless I saw that such 
a course was necessary, I said nothing about these things even 
to my confessors, for to do so would have caused me grave 
scruples. I realize now that all these little fears and troubles 
and this apparent humility were sheer imperfection, due to 
my lack of mortification. For a soul left in the hands of God 
cares nothing whether good or evil is spoken of it if it has a right 
understanding. And, when. the Lord is pleased to grant it the 
grace of understanding, it must understand clearly that it has 
nothing of its own. Let it trust its Giver and it will learn why 
He reveals His gifts, and let it prepare itself for persecution, 
which at a time like the present is sure to come to a person 
when the Lord is pleased for it to be known that He is granting 
him such favours as these. For upon a soul like this are fixed a 
thousand eyes, whereas upon a thousand souls of baser texture 
there will not be fixed a single one. 

In truth, there is no small reason here for being afraid, and 
I certainly ought to have been so I was being, not humble, but 
pusillanimous. For a soul which God allows to walk in this way in 
the sight of the whole world may well prepare itself to be martyred 
by the world, for, if it will not die to the world of its own free will, 
the world itself will kill it. Really, I can see nothing in the world 


that seems to me good save its refusal to allow that good people 
can ever do wrong and the way it perfects them by speaking ill 
of them. I mean that more courage is necessary for following 
the way of perfection, if one is not perfect, than for suddenly 
becoming a martyr; for perfection cannot be acquired quickly, 
except by one to whom by some particular privilege the Lord 
is pleased to grant this favour. When the world sees anyone setting 
out on that road it expects him to be perfect all at once and detects 
a fault in him from a thousand leagues' distance; yet in that 
particular person the fault may be a virtue, and his critic, in 
whom it is a vice, may be judging him by himself. They will not 
allow him to eat or sleep they will hardly let him breathe, as 
we say: the more highly they think of him, the more they seem to 
forget that he is still in the body. For, however perfect his soul 
may be, he is still living on earth, and however resolutely he may 
trample earth's miserable limitations beneath his feet, he is still 
subject to them. And so, as I say, he needs great courage. His 
poor soul has not yet begun to walk, and men expect it to fly. 
He has not yet conquered his passions, and men expect him to 
rise to. great occasions and be as brave as they read the saints 
were after they had been confirmed in grace. What happens 
here gives us cause for praising the Lord and also for great 
sorrow of heart, since so many poor souls turn back because 
they have no idea what to do to help themselves* And I believe 
my soul would have been like them had not the Lord Himself 
had such compassion on me and done everything for me. Until 
He of His goodness had done everything, I myself did nothing, 
as Your Reverence will know, but fall and rise again. 

I wish I knew how to express this, for many souls, I believe, 
go wrong here and want to fly before God gives them wings. I 
think I have made this comparison somewhere before, but it 
is very much to the point, so I will attempt it again, for I find 
that some souls are very much distressed by this. They begin 
with good desires, and fervour, and determination to advance in 
virtue, and some of them give up all external things for God. 
Then they see in others who are more fully grown in grace many 
notable fruits, in the shape of virtues given them by the Lord 
for we cannot acquire these ourselves. They see in all the books 
written on prayer and contemplation a description of things 
which we must do in order to rise to that dignity. And, as they 
themselves cannot manage to do all these things, they lose 
courage. I refer to such things as not caring if people speak ill 
of us, but being more pleased than when they speak well; holding 
our own reputation in little esteem; cultivating detachment 
from our kindred, and, unless they be persons of prayer, not 


desiring converse with them but finding it wearisome; and 
other things of that kind. These, I think, must be bestowed upoi 
us by God, for they seem to me to be supernatural blessings 
contradicting our natural inclinations. They must not tw 
troubled, but hope in the Lord; for what they now are in desin 
His Majesty will, if they pray and do what they can for themselves 
make them to be in very deed. It is most necessary that thi 
weak nature of ours should have great confidence, and not be 
dismayed or think that, if we do our utmost, we can fail to come 
out victorious. 

As I have a great deal of experience here, I will say something 
to Your Reverence by way of counsel. Do not think, even though 
it may seem so to you, that anyone has acquired a virtue when he 
has not tested it by its corresponding vice. We must always 
guard our misgivings, and never, all our lives long, grow careless, 
for much of the world will cling to us, if, as I say, God has not 
given us the grace fully to understand the nature of everything; 
and there is never anything in this life which is not attended by 
many dangers. A few years ago, I believed, not merely that I was 
not attached to my relatives, but that they were wearisome to me, 
and this was certainly true, for I could not endure their conver- 
sation. Then a matter of great importance cropped up and I 
had to go and stay with a sister of mine of whom, in the past, 
I had been extremely fond. 1 Though she is a better woman 
than I am, I could not get on with her at all in conversation; 
for as she is married, and therefore lives a different kind of life, 
we could not always be talking of the things I should have liked, 
and all I could do was to try to be alone. But I found that when 
she was distressed it affected me much more than when my 
neighbours were; sometimes, in fact, I would be quite concerned 
about her. In short, I discovered that I was not as free from 
attachment as I had supposed and indeed that I needed to avoid 
occasions of sin, so that this virtue, which the Lord had begun to 
implant in me, might grow; and with His help I have done my 
utmost to cultivate it ever since. 

When the Lord begins to implant a virtue in us, it must be 
esteemed very highly and we must on no account run the risk of 
losing it. So it is in matters concerning our reputation 2 and in 

1 This reference is probably to a stay which St. Teresa made with her younger 
sister, Juana> and her husband, Don Juan de Ovalle. From letters which the Saint 
wrote to her brother, Don Lorenzo, it is clear that lack of means, together with Don 
Juan's difficult temperament, made Dona Juana's married life anything but a smooth 
one. The two came from Alba to Avila, for reasons connected with the foundation 
of St. Joseph's, in August 1 561 . 

1 [Htmra; and so throughout this and the following paragraphs. Cf. p. 14, n. % 9 


many others. Your Reverence can be quite sure that we are not all 
completely detached when we think we are and it is essential 
that we should never be careless about this* If any person wishing 
to make progress in spiritual matters finds that he is becoming 
punctilious about his reputation, let him believe what I say and 
put this attachment right behind him, for it is a chain which no 
file can sever: only God can break it, with the aid of prayer and 
great effort on our part. It seems to me to be an impediment on 
this road and I am amazed at the harm it does. I see some people 
whose actions are very holy and who do such wonderful things 
that everyone is astonished at them* God bless me, then! Why 
are such souls still on earth? How is it that they have not reached 
the summit of perfection? What is the reason for this? What 
can it be that is impeding one who is doing so much for God? 
Why, simply his punctiliousness about his reputation! And the 
worst of it is that this sort of person will not realize that he is 
guilty of such a thing, the reason sometimes being that the devil 
tells him that punctiliousness is incumbent upon him. 

Let such persons believe me, then : for the love of the Lord 
let them believe this little ant, for she speaks becaifee it is the 
Lord's will that she should do so. If they fail to remove this 
caterpillar, it may not hurt the whole tree, for some of the other 
virtues will remain, but they will all be worm-eaten. The tree 
will not be beautiful: it will neither prosper itself nor allow 
the trees near it to do so, for the fruit of good example which it 
bears is not at all healthy and will not last for long. I repeat 
this: however slight may be our concern for our reputation, 
the result of it will be as bad as when we play a wrong note, 
or make a mistake in time, in playing the organ the whole 
passage will become discordant. Such concern is a thing which 
harms the soul whenever it occurs; but in the life of prayer it is 

You are trying to attain to union with God. We want to 
follow the counsels of Christ, on Whom were showered insults 
and false witness. Are we, then, really so anxious to keep intact 
our own reputation and credit? We cannot do so and yet attain 
to union, for the two ways diverge. When we exert our utmost 
-efforts and try in various ways to forgo our rights, the Lord comes 
to the soul. Some will say: "I have nothing to forgo: I never get 
an opportunity of giving up anything." But if anyone has this 
determination I do not believe the Lord will ever allow him to 
lose so great a blessing. His Majesty will arrange so many ways 
in which he may gain this virtue that he will soon have more 
than he wants. I would urge you, then, to set to work and root 
out things which are of little or no consequence, just as I used to 

214 LIFE [CHAP. 

do when I began or, at least, some of them. They are mere 
straws; and, as I have said, I throw them on the fire. I am in- 
capable of doing more than that, but the Lord accepts it : may 
He be blessed for ever. 

One of my faults was this: I knew very little of my office-book, 
and of what I ought to do in choir, and of how to behave, simply 
because I was careless and absorbed in other vanities. I saw other 
novices who could have taught me these things, but I did not ask 
them to do so, lest they should become aware how little I knew. 
But good example soon prevails: that, at least, is the general 
rule. Once God opened my eyes a little, I would ask the other 
girls' opinion 1 even when I knew something but was the slightest 
bit in doubt about it; and my doing so damaged neither my 
honour 2 nor my credit in fact I think the Lord has been pleased 
since then to give me a better memory. I was bad at singing 
and I felt it very deeply if I had not studied what was entrusted 
to me: not for my shortcomings in the Lord's eyes that would 
have been virtue but because of all the nuns who were listening 
to me. Merely out of concern for my own honour I was so much 
perturbed fliat I did much worse than I need have done. Later, 
when I did not know my part very well, I made a point of saying 
so. At first, this hurt me terribly but after a time I began to take 
pleasure in it. And when I ceased caring if my ignorance were 
known or not, I got on much better. So this miserable concern 
for my honour prevented me from being able to do what I really 
regarded as an honour, for everyone interprets the word 'honour* 
to mean what he chooses. 

By means of these nothings, which after all actually are nothing 
(and I, too, am certainly nothing, to be hurt by a thing like this), 
one's actions gradually become worthier. And if we take trouble 
over such trifling things, to which God attaches importance 
because they are done for Him, His Majesty helps us to do greater 
ones. And so it was with me in matters concerning humility; 
seeing that all the nuns except myself were making progress (for I 
mysefr was always a good-for-nothing) I would collect their 
mantles when they left the choir. I felt that by doing this I was 
serving angels who were praising God there, until I do not 
know how they came to hear of it, which made me not a little 
ashamed. For my virtue had not reached the point of desiring 
them to know of these things not out of humility, but lest they 
should laugh at me over something so unimportant* 

1 ["Girls'," may seem an unduly colloquial word, but the Spanish is even more 
unexpected: idnas, "young girls'*, "children".] 

*[C p. 14, n. 2, above. "Reputation" would be a better word here, but the 
wordplay in the last sentence of the paragraph requires ** honour'*.] 


O my Lord, how ashamed I am at having to confess all this 
wickedness ! I go on counting these little grains of sand, which 
as yet were not being stirred up in the river-bed for Thy sendee, 
but were embedded in all kinds of filth. 1 The water of Thy 
grace was not yet flowing beneath all this sand to stir it up. 

my Creator, if only amid so many things that are evil I had 
a few that were worthy of enumeration, to set beside the great 
favours that I have received from Thee ! But thus it is, my Lord, 
and I know not how my heart can bear it or how anyone who 
reads this can fail to abhor me when he sees how ill I have 
requited such exceeding great favours and that despite all this 

1 am not ashamed to reckon any services that I may have rendered 
Thee as my own. In reality, my Lord, I am ashamed to do so, 
but the fact that I have nothing else of my own to enumerate 
makes me speak of such mean beginnings so that those who 
began better may be hopeful that, as the Lord has taken notice 
of these. He will take notice of theirs still more. May it please 
His Majesty to give me grace so that I may not always remain 
a beginner. Amen. 


Tells how the Lord was pleased to carry her in spirit to a place in hell 
which she had merited for her sins. Describes a part of what was 
shown her there. Begins to tell of the way and means whereby 
the convent of Saint Joseph was founded in the place where it now 

A long time after the Lord had granted me many of the 
favours which I have described, together with other very great 
ones, I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing 
how, I found myself, as I thought, plunged right into hell. I real- 
ized that it was the Lord's will that I should see the place which 
the devils had prepared for me there and which I had merited 
for my sins. This happened in the briefest space of time, but, 
even if I were to live for many years, I believe it would be 
impossible for me to forget it. The entrance, I thought, resembled 
a very long, narrow passage, like a furnace, very low, dark and 
closely confined; the ground seemed to be full of water which 
looked like filthy, evil-smelling mud, and in it were many 
wicked-looking reptiles. At the end there was a hollow place 
scooped out of a wall, like a cupboard, and it was here that 

1 [This is evidently a reminiscent reference to pp. 202-3, above. The application of 
the figure, however, it will be seen, is slightly different.] 

216 LIFE [CHAP, 

I found myself in close confinement. But the sight of all this 
was pleasant by comparison with what I felt there. What I 
have said is in no way an exaggeration. 

My feelings, I think, could not possibly be exaggerated, nor 
can anyone understand them. I felt a fire within my soul the 
nature of which I am utterly incapable of describing. My bodily 
sufferings were so intolerable that, though in my life I have 
endured the severest sufferings of this kind the worst it is pos- 
sible to endure, the doctors say, such as the shrinking of the 
nerves during my paralysis 1 and many and divers more, some 
of them, as I have said, caused by the devil none of them is 
of the smallest account by comparison with what I felt then, 
to say nothing of the knowledge that they would be endless and 
never-ceasing. And even these are nothing by comparison with 
the agony of my soul, t an oppression, a suffocation and an afflic- 
tion so deeply felt, and accompanied by such hopeless and dis- 
tressing misery, that I cannot too forcibly describe it. To say 
that it is as if the soul were continually being torn from the body is 
very little, for that would mean that one's life was being taken by 
another; whereas in this case it is the soul itself that is tearing 
itself to pieces. The fact is that I cannot find words to describe 
that interior fire and that despair, which is greater than the 
most grievous tortures and pains. I could not see who was the 
cause of them, but I felt, I think, as if I were being both burned 
and dismembered; and I repeat that that interior fire and despair 
are the worst things of all. 

In that pestilential spot, where I was quite powerless to hope 
for comfort, it was impossible to sit or lie, for there was no room 
to do so. I had been put in this place which looked like a hole 
in the wall, and those very walls, so terrible to the sight, bore 
down upon me and completely stifled me. There was no light 
and everything was in the blackest darkness. I do not under- 
stand how this can be, but, although there was no light, it was 
possible to see everything the sight of which can cause afflic- 
tion. At that time it was not the Lord's will that I should see 
more of hell itself, but I have since seen another vision of frightful 
things, which are the punishment of certain vices. To look at, 
they seemed to me much more dreadful; but, as I felt no pain, 
they caused me less fear. In the earlier vision the Lord was 
pleased that I should really feel those torments and that afflic- 
tion of spirit, just as if my body had been suffering them. I do 
not know how it was, but I realized quite clearly that it was a 
great favour and that it was the Lord's will that I should see 
.with my own eyes the place from which His mercy had delivered 

1 [See p. 30, above.] 


me. It is nothing to read a description of it, or to think of different 
kinds of torture (as I have sometimes done, though rarely, as 
my soul made little progress by the road of fear) : of how the 
devils tear the flesh with their pincers or of the various other 
tortures that I have read about none of these are anything by 
comparison with this affliction, which is quite another matter. 
In fact, it is like a picture set against reality, and any burning 
on earth is a small matter compared with that fire. 

I was terrified by all this, and, though it happened nearly six 
years ago, I still am as I write: even as I sit here, fear seems 
to be depriving my body of its natural warmth. I never recall 
any time when I have been suffering trials or pains and when 
everything that we can suffer on earth has seemed to me of the 
slightest importance by comparison with this; so, in a way, I 
think we complain without reason. I repeat, then, that this 
vision was one of the most signal favours which the Lord has 
bestowed upon me: it has been of the greatest benefit to me, 
both in taking from me all fear of the tribulations and dis- 
appointments of this life and also in strengthening me to suffer 
them and to give thanks to the Lord, Who, as I now believe, 
has delivered me from such terrible and never-ending torments* 

Since that time, as I say, everything has seemed light to me 
by comparison with a single moment of such suffering as I had 
to bear during that vision. I am shocked at myself when I 
think that, after having so often read books which give some 
idea of the pains of hell, I was neither afraid of them nor rated 
them at what they are* What could I have been thinking of? 
How could anything give me satisfaction which was driving me 
to so awful a place? Blessed be Thou, my God, for ever! How 
plain it has become that Thou didst love me, much more than 
I love myself! How often, Lord, didst Thou deliver me from 
that gloomy prison and how I would make straight for it again, 
in face of Thy will! 

This vision, too, was the cause of the very deep distress which 
I experibnce because of the great number of souls who are 
bringing damnation upon themselves especially of those 
Lutherans, for they were made members of the Church through 
baptism. It also inspired me with fervent impulses for the good 
of souls : for I really believe that, to deliver a single one of them 
from such dreadful tortures, I would willingly die many deaths. 
After all, if we see anyone on earth who is especially dear to 
us suffering great trial or pain, our very nature seems to move 
us to compassion, and if his sufferings are severe they oppress 
us too. Who, then, could bear to look upon a soul's endless 
sufferings in that most terrible trial of all? No heart could 


possibly endure it without great affliction. For even earthlj 
suffering, which after all, as we know, has a limit and will end 
with death, moves us to deep compassion. And that othei 
suffering has no limit: I do not know how we can look on sc 
calmly and see the devil carrying off as many souls as he does 

This also makes me wish that in so urgent a matter we were 
not ourselves satisfied with anything short of doing all that we 
can. Let us leave nothing undone; and to this end may the 
Lord be pleased to grant us His grace. I recall that, wicked 
creature though I was, I used to take some trouble to serve 
God and refrain from doing certain things which I see tolerated 
and considered quite legitimate in the world; that I had serious 
illnesses, and bore them with great patience, which the Lord 
bestowed on me; that I was not given to murmuring or speaking 
ill of anyone, nor, I think, could I ever have wished anyone 
ill; that I was not covetous and never remember having been 
envious in such a way as grievously to offend the Lord; and 
that I abstained from certain other faults, and, despicable 
though I was, lived in the most constant fear of God. And yet 
look at the place where the devils had prepared a lodging for 
me ! It is true, I think, that my faults had merited a much heavier 
punishment; but none the less, I repeat, the torture was terrible, 
and it is a perilous thing for a soul to indulge in its own pleasure 
or to be placid and contented when at every step it is falling 
into mortal sin. For the love of God, let us keep free from occa- 
sions of sin and the Lord will help us as He has helped me. 
May it please His Majesty not to let me out of His hand lest 
I fall once more, now that I have seen the place to which that 
would lead me. May the Lord forbid this, for His Majesty's 
sake. Amen. 

After I had seen this vision, and other great things and secrets 
which, being what He is, the Lord was pleased to show me, 
concerning the bliss reserved for the good and the affliction for 
the wicked, I desired to find some way and means of doing 
penance for all my evil deeds and of becoming in some degree 
worthy to gain so great a blessing. I desired, therefore, to flee 
from others and to end by withdrawing myself completely from 
the world. My spirit was restless, yet the restlessness was not 
disturbing but pleasant: I knew quite well that it was of God 
and that His Majesty had given my soul this ardour to enable 
me to digest other and stronger meat than I had been in the 
habit of eating. 

I would wonder what I could do for God, and it occurred to 
me that the first thing was to follow the vocation for a religious 


life which His Majesty had given me by keeping my Rule with 
the greatest possible perfection. And although in the house 
where I was living 1 there were many servants of God, and He 
was well served in it, yet, as it was very needy, we nuns would 
often leave it for other places where we could live honourably 
and keep our vows. Furthermore, the Rule was not observed 
in its primitive rigour but, as throughout the Order, according to 
the Bull of Mitigation. 2 There were also other disadvantages, 
such as the excessive amount of comfort which I thought we 
had, for the house was a large and pleasant one. But this habit 
of frequently going away (and I was one who did it a great 
deal) was a serious drawback to me, for there were certain 
persons, to whom my superiors could refuse nothing, who liked 
to have me with them, and so, when importuned by these 
persons, they would order me to go and visit them. So things 
went on until I was able to be in the convent very little; the 
devil must have had something to do with my being away so 
much, though at the same time I was in the habit of repeating 
to some of the nuns the things taught me by the people I met 
and these did them a great deal of good. 

One day it happened that a person to whom I was talking, 5 
with some other sisters, asked me why we should not become 
Discalced nuns, 4 for it would be quite possible to find a way 
of establishing a convent. I had had desires of this kind myself, 
so I began to discuss the matter with a companion that widowed 
lady who, as I have said before, had the same desire. She began 
to think out a way to find the money for such a house; I see 
now that that would not have got us very far, though our desire 
to achieve our object made us think that it would. But, for 
my own part, I was most happy in the house where I was, for 
I was very fond both of the house and of my cell, and this held 
me back. None the less, we agreed to commend the matter 
very earnestly to God. 

One day, after Communion, the Lord gave me the most 
explicit commands to work for this aim with all my might and 
made me wonderful promises that the convent would not fail 

1 The Convent of the Incarnation, Avila. 

* A Bull published by Pope Eugenius IV on February 15, 1432. 

8 Maria de Ocampo, daughter of Don Diego de Cepeda and Dona Beatriz de la 
Cruz y OcampOj who were St. Teresa's cousins. She herself took the Discalced habit 
at Avila in 1563. 

4 Another account of this conversation [cit. P. Silverio, I, 268, n.] says that it 
arose out of a discussion on the hermit-saints. Some of the nuns suggested the estab- 
lishment of a small convent in which a few of them could lead a more penitential life. 
St. Teresa then said they ought to restore the primitive Rule and one nun offered 
her financial help if she would found a convent of the kind described. At this point, 
Dona Guiomar de Ulloa (the "widowed lady" of the text) arrived, and, on being 
told of the conversation, said that she too would help in the good work. 

220 LIFE [CHAP. 

to be established; that great service would be done to Him in 
it; that it should be called Saint Joseph's ; that He 1 would watch 
over us at one door and Our Lady at the other; that Christ 
would go with us; that the convent would be a star giving 
out the most brilliant light; and that, although the Rules of 
the religious Orders were mitigated, I was not to think He was 
very little served in them, for what would become of the world 
if it were not for religious? I was to tell my confessor this 2 
and to say that it was He Who was giving me this command and 
that He asked him not to oppose it nor to hinder me in carrying 
it out. 

So great was the effect upon me of this vision and such was 
the nature of these words which the Lord addressed to me 
that I could not doubt that it was He Who had uttered them. 
This caused me the deepest distress, because I had a fairly good 
idea of the serious disturbances and trials which the work would 
cost me. I was very happy, too, in that house, and, though in 
the past I had been accustomed to speak of such a foundation, 
it had not been with any great degree of determination or cer- 
tainty that the thing would be done. I felt now that a great 
burden was being laid upon me, and, when I saw that I was 
at the beginning of a very disturbing time, I became doubtful 
what I should do. But the Lord appeared and spoke to me 
about it again and again, and so numerous were the motives 
and arguments which He put before me, in such a way that I 
saw that they were valid and that the project was His will, that 
I dared not do otherwise than speak to my confessor about it 
and give him a written account of everything that took place. 

He did not venture to tell me expressly to give up the idea, 
but he saw that, humanly speaking, there was no way of putting 
it into practice, since my companion, who was to be the person 
to effect this, had no resources at all, or very scanty ones. He 
told me to talk it over with my Superior, and to do what he 
advised. I did not discuss these visions with the Superior, but 
the lady who was desirous of founding this convent had a talk 
with him, and the Provincial, 3 who is well-disposed to the religious 
Orders, took to the idea very well, gave her all necessary help 
and told her he would give the house has sanction. They discussed 
the revenue which the convent would need, and we decided 

a [I translate "He" in deference to P. Silverio's capitalization of the pronoun, 
but a likelier reading seems to me "he" (St. Joseph). Sixteenth-century manuscripts 
do not capitalize pronouns which refer to God, so the matter must remain one for 

* P. Baltasar Alvarez. 

3 This was not, as is often said, P. Angel de Salazar, but P. Gregorio Fernandez, 
who was Provincial from 1551 to 1553 and again from 1559 to the end of 1561. 


that, for many reasons, the number of nuns in the convent ought 
never to exceed thirteen. Before beginning to discuss the matter 
we had written to the holy Fray Peter of Alcantara and told him 
all that was happening. He advised us not to desist from our work 
and gave us his opinion about the whole matter. 

Hardly had news of the project begun to be known here than 
there descended upon us a persecution so severe that it is impos- 
sible in a few words to describe it: people talked about us, laughed 
at us and declared that the idea was ridiculous. Of me, they said 
that I was all right in the convent *vhere I was living, while my 
companion was subjected to such persecution that it quite 
exhausted her. I did not know what to do, for up to a certain point 
I thought these people were right. Worn out with it all as I was, 
I commended myself to God and His Majesty began to give 
me consolation and encouragement. He told me that I could now 
see what those saints who had founded religious Orders had 
suffered: they had had to endure much more persecution than 
any I could imagine and we must not allow ourselves to be 
troubled by it. He told me certain things which I was to say to 
my companion, and to my absolute amazement we at once felt 
comforted by what had happened and courageous enough to 
resist everybody. And it is a fact that, at that time, both among 
people of prayer and in the whole place, there was hardly anyone 
who was not against us and did not consider our project absolutely 
ridiculous. 1 

There was so much commotion and talk of this kind in my 
own convent that the Provincial thought it would be hard for 
him to set himself against everybody; so he changed his mind 
and refused to sanction the plan. He said that the revenue was 
not assured, that in any case there would be too little of it, and 
that the plan was meeting with considerable opposition. In all 
this he appeared to be right. So he dropped the matter and 
refused to sanction the new convent. We, on whom the first 
blows now seemed to have fallen, were very much distressed at 
this, and I myself was particularly so at finding the Provincial 
against me, for his previous approval of the plan had justified me 
in the eyes of all. My companion was refused absolution unless 
she would give up the idea; it was incumbent on her, she was told, 
to remove the scandal. 

1 The Saint's niece Teresita related [cf. P. Silverio, I, 270, n.J that the proposed 
reform was even publicly denounced from Avilan pulpits On one occasion, she saySa 
St. Teresa and her sister Dona Juana went to hear a sermon at St. Thomas's and to 
Dona Juana's discomfiture the preacher ("a religious of a certain Order") began to 
inveigh against "nuns who left their convents to go and found new Orders". But 
when she turned indignantly to see how St. Teresa was taking it, she found that she 
was having a quiet laugh (con gran paz se cstaba riendo), [Cf. p. 226, 1. i ? below.] 
The identity of the preacher has been guessed at, but is not known* 

222 LIFE [CHAP. 

She went to talk the matter over with a very learned man, a 
most devout servant of God, of the Order of Saint Dominic, 1 
and to him she detailed the whole story. This she did even before 
the Provincial withdrew his support from us, for we had no one 
in the whole place who would advise us in the matter; and it was 
for that reason that they said the whole thing had come out of 
our own heads. The lady gave this holy man an account of 
everything and told him how much revenue she derived from her 
estate; she hoped very much that he would help us, since at that 
time he was the most learned man in the place, and there are 
few more learned than he in his entire Order. I myself told him 
all that we were proposing to do and some of the reasons for it. 
I said nothing to him about any of the revelations I had had, 
but only described the reasons, other than supernatural, which 
were prompting me, for it was these alone that I wanted Mm to 
take into account when giving us his opinion. He told us that 
we must allow him a week to think the matter over before 
answering and asked if we were definitely going to act upon 
whatever he said. I told him we were; but although I said this, 
and I think I would have acted upon it, 2 1 never for a moment 
lost my confidence that the foundation would be made. My 
companion had more faith; 'and, whatever people might say to 
her, nothing would persuade her to abandon it. 

For my own part, although, as I say, the abandonment of 
the project seemed to me impossible, I believed the revelation 
to be true only in the sense that it was not contrary to what is in 
Holy Scripture or to the laws of the Church which we are obliged 
to keep; for, despite my belief that it really came from God, if 
that learned man had told me that we could not act upon it 
without offending Him and that we were acting against our 
conscience, I think I should at once have abandoned the plan 
and sought some other way. But the Lord showed me no other 
way than this. Later, this servant of God told me that at one 
point he had definitely decided to urge us to give the project up, 
because his attention had been directed to the popular clamour, 
and also because to him, as to everyone else, it had seemed 
folly; that a certain gentleman, on hearing that we had gone 
to him, had sent to advise him to be careful what he did and not 
to help us; but that, when he had begun to consider what he 
should say to us, to think over the matter, and to reflect upon 
the intentions that were prompting us, the way we were setting 
to work and our concern for our Order, he became convinced 

1 P. Pedro Ibanez, one of the Samt's chief supporters in the early days of her 
Reform, of which, however, he saw very little, for he died in 1565. 
* A line is obliterated here, presumably by P. Banez. 


that we should be rendering God a great service and that the 
scheme must not be abandoned. And so his answer was that 
we should make haste to carry it out; he told us by what ways 
and methods this should be done; and, although our income was 
small, we must be prepared to some extent to trust God. Anyone, 
he said, who offered further opposition should be referred to 
him for an answer; and he always helped us in this way, as I 
shall show later. 

We were greatly comforted by this, and also by the fact that 
several saintly persons, who had previously been against us, were 
now better disposed and some of them actually helped us. One of 
these was the saintly gentleman whom I have already mentioned. 
He now felt that the project, being founded, as in fact it was, on 
prayer, would lead to great perfection, and though he thought 
it would be difficult and impracticable to find the necessary 
means for making the foundation, he gave up his former view and 
decided that the idea might be from God, in which decision the 
Lord Himself must have inspired him. He also inspired that 
Master, the cleric and servant of God to whom 3 as I said, I 
had spoken first of all, who is a pattern to the whole place and 
a person whom God keeps there for the help and profit of many 
souls. 1 He, too, came forward to help me in. the matter. And 
while things were in that position, and many people were con- 
tinually helping us by their prayers, we practically completed 
the negotiations for purchasing the house. It was a small one, 
but that did not trouble me in the least, for the Lord had told 
me to start work as well as I could and in due course I should see 
what His Majesty would do for us* (And how clearly I have 
seen it!) And so, though I realized our income would be small, 
I believed that the Lord would have other ways of arranging 
things for us and would give us His help. 


Proceeds with the same subject the foundation of the cowent of the 
glorious Saint Joseph. Tells how she was commanded not to continue 
it, how for a time she gave it up, how she suffered various trials 
and how in all of them she was comforted by the Lord. 

It was when matters had reached this position and were so 
near completion that the deeds were to i>e signed on the following 

1 Master Caspar Daza. [The tide of "Master" was conferred by the Orders upon 
certain religious io virtue of teaching posts held by them, or as a distinction,] 

224 LIFE [CHAP. 

day that the attitude of our Father Provincial suddenly changed. 
I believe, and it has since become apparent, that this change was 
by Divine appointment; for, while all these prayers were being 
offered for us, the Lord was perfecting His work and arranging 
for it to be accomplished in another way. As the Provincial 
would not now sanction the foundation, my confessor at once 
forbade me to go on with it, though the Lord knows what sore 
trials and afflictions it had cost me to bring it to its present state. 
When the project was given up, and remained unaccomplished, 
people became still more certain that it was all some ridiculous 
women's idea, and the evil-speaking against me increased, 
though until then I had been acting on my Provincial's orders. 

I was now very unpopular throughout my convent for having 
wanted to found a convent more strictly enclosed. The nuns said 
that I was insulting them; that there were others there who were 
better than myself, and so I could serve God quite well where I 
was; that I had no love for my own convent; and that I should 
have done better to get money for that than for founding another. 
Some said I ought to be thrown into the prison-cell; 1 others 
came out on my side, though of these there were very few. I 
saw quite well that in many respects they were right and I could 
sometimes make allowances for them; although, as I could not 
tell them the principal thing namely, that I had been obeying 
the Lord's command I did not know what to do and so was 
silent. At other times God was so gracious to me that none of 
this worried me in the slightest; I gave up the project as easily 
and happily as though it had cost me nothing. This nobody 
could believe, not even the very persons, given to prayer as they 
were, with whom I had to do: they supposed I must be very 
much distressed and ashamed even my confessor could not 
really believe that I was not. It seemed to me that I had done all 
I possibly could to fulfil the Lord's command and that therefore 
I had no further obligation. So I remained in my own house, 
quite content and happy. I could not, however, give up my 
belief that the task would be duly accomplished, and, though I 
was unable to forecast the means and knew neither how nor when 
the work would be done, I was quite sure that it would be done 
in time. 

What troubled me a great deal was that on one occasion my 
confessor 2 wrote me a letter of a kind which suggested that I 
had in some way been acting against his wishes. It must Jiave 
been the Lord's will that I should not be immune from trials 

1 The prison-cell of the Incarnation still exists* It was quite common in those days 
for religious communities to imprison their recalcitrant members. 
* P. Baltasar Alvarez. 


coming from the source which would cause me the greatest pain. 
For, amid this multitude of persecutions, my confessor, whom I 
had expected to console me, wrote that I must now have realized 
that all that had happened was just a drearn and that henceforth 
I must lead a better life and not try to do anything more of the 
kind or talk about it any further, since I now saw what scandal 
it had occasioned. He said other things, too, all of them very 
distressing. This troubled me more than everything else put 
together, for I wondered if I had myself been an occasion of sin 
to others, if it had been my fault that offence had been given to 
God, if these visions were illusory, if all my prayer had been a 
deception and if I was sorely deluded and lost. These thoughts 
oppressed me to such an extent that I was quite upset by them 
and plunged into the deepest affliction. But the Lord, Who never 
failed me, and in all these trials which I have enumerated often 
comforted and strengthened me, in a way that need not here 
be described, told me at once not to distress myself and said that 
I had not offended Him in the matter at all but had rendered 
Him great service. He told me to do what my confessor ordered 
me and to keep silence for the present and until the time came 
for the project to be resumed. This brought me such comfort 
and satisfaction that all the persecution which I was undergoing 
seemed nothing at all. 

The Lord now showed me what a signal blessing it is to suffer 
trials and persecutions for His sake, for so great was the growth 
in my soul of love for God and of many other graces that I was 
astounded, and this made me incapable of ceasing to desire 
trials. The other people thought I was very much ashamed 
as indeed I should have been had the Lord not helped me in 
these straits by granting me such great favours. It was now that 
I began to experience the increasingly strong impulses of the 
love of God which I have described, and also deeper raptures, 
although I was silent on this subject and never spoke to anyone 
of what I had gained. The saintly Dominican 1 did not cease 
to share my certainty that the project would be accomplished; 
and, as I myself would take no further part in it, lest I should 
run contrary to the obedience which I owed my confessor, he 
discussed it with my companion and they wrote to Rome and 
sought a way out. 

And now the devil began to contrive that one person after 
another should hear that I had received some kind of revelation 
about this matter, and people came to me in great concern to 
say that these were bad times and that it might be that some- 
thing would be alleged against me and I should have to go before 

1 P. Pedro 

22 6 LIFE [CHAP. 

the Inquisitors. But they only amused me and made me laugh, 
because I never had any fear about this. I knew quite well that 
in matters of faith no one would ever find me transgressing even 
the smallest ceremony of the Church, and that for the Church 
or for any truth of Holy Scripture I would undertake to die a 
thousand deaths. So I told them not to be afraid, for my soul 
would be in a very bad way if there were anything about it which 
could make me fear the Inquisition. If ever I thought there^might 
be, I would go and pay it a visit of my own accord; and if any- 
thing were alleged against me the Lord would deliver me and I 
should be very much the gainer. I discussed this with my Domini- 
can Father, who, as I say, was a very learned man, so that I 
knew I could rely on anything he might say to me. I told him, 
as clearly as I could, all about my visions, my way of prayer 
and the great favours which the Lord was granting me, and I 
begged him to think it all over very carefully, to let me know 
if there was anything in them contrary to Holy Scripture and to 
tell me his feelings about the whole matter. He reassured me a 
great deal and I think it was a help to him too; for, although 
he was very good, from that time onward he devoted himself 
much more to prayer, and retired to a monastery of his Order 
where there is great scope for solitude, so that he might the better 
practise prayer; and here he stayed for over two years. 1 He was 
then commanded under obedience to leave, which caused him 
great regret, but he was such an able man that they needed 


In one way, I was very sorry when he went, because I too 
needed him badly. But I did nothing to unsettle him, for I 
realized that the gain was his; and, when I was feeling very 
much grieved at hjs departure, the Lord told me to take comfort 
and not be distressed, because he was being led in the light way. 
"When he came back, his soul had made such progress and his 
spiritual growth had been so great that he told me after his return 
that he would not have missed going for anything. And I too 
could say the same thing; for previously he had been reassuring 
and comforting me only by his learning, whereas now he did so 
as well by the ample spiritual experience which he had acquired 
of things supernatural. And God brought him back just at the 
right time, for His Majesty saw that he would be needed to help 
with this convent, the foundation of which was His Majesty's 

For five or six months I remained silent, taking no further 

1 At Trianos, in the province of Leon. Actually he died there, at about the time 
when St. Teresa was completing this book, so his return to Avila, referred to in the 
text below, can have been only temporary. 


steps with regard to the plan and never even speaking about it, 
and the Lord gave me not a single command. I had no idea what 
was the reason for this, but I could not get rid of my belief that 
the foundations-would be duly made. At the end of that time, the 
priest who had been Rector of the Company of Jesus having left, 
His Majesty brought a successor to him here who was a very 
spiritual man, of great courage, intelligence and learning, at 
a time when I was in dire need. 1 For the priest who at that time 
was hearing my confessions had a superior over him, and in the 
Company they are extremely particular about the virtue of never 
doing the slightest thing save in conformity with the will of those 
who are over them. So, although he thoroughly understood my 
spirit and desired its progress, there were certain matters about 
which, for very good reasons, he dared not be at all definite. 
My spirit, which was now experiencing the most vehement 
impulses, was greatly troubled at being constrained in this way; 
I did not, however, depart from his orders. 

One day, when I was in great affliction, thinking that my 
confessor did not believe me, the Lord told me not to be 
worried, for my distress would soon be over. I was very glad, 
supposing His meaning to be that I was soon going to die, and 
whenever I thought of this I was very happy. Later I realized 
that He was referring to the arrival of this Rector whom I have 
mentioned; for I never had any reason to feel so distressed again, 
because the new Rector placed no restrictions upon the minister 
who was my confessor, but told him that, as there was no cause 
for fear, he should comfort me and not lead me by so strait a 
path, but allow the Spirit of the Lord to work in me, for some- 
times it seemed as if these strong spiritual impulses prevented my 
soul even from breathing. 

This Rector came to see me and my confessor told me to consult 
him with the utmost frankness and freedom. I used to dislike 
very much speaking about the matter, and' yet, when I went 
into the confessional, I felt something in my spirit which I do 
not recall having felt in the presence of anyone else, either before 
or since. I cannot possibly describe its nature or compare it 
with anything whatsoever. For it was a spiritual joy: my soul 
knew that here was a soul that would understand and be in 
harmony with mine, although, as I say, I do not know how this 

1 The Rector Who left Avila was P. Dionisio Vazquez, confessor of St. Francis 
Borgia and famous in the history of the Society of Jesus for his negotiations with 
Philip II, the Inquisition and the Holy See, the aim of which was to remove the 
Spanish houses of the Society from the jurisdiction of the General m Rome., He was 
succeeded, in 1561, by P. Caspar de Salazar. Disagreements which arose between 
3t Giles' College and Don Alvaro de Mendoza, Bishop of Avila, led to P. Salazar's 
removal early in 1 562 ' he had gone when St. Teresa returned* from her visit to Tnl**Hft. 

2*8 LIFE [CHAP. 

happened. If I had ever spoken to him or had been told great 
things about him, it would not have been strange that I should 
have felt happy and been sure that he would understand me; 
but I had never spoken a word to him before, nor had he to me, 
nor was he a person about whom I had ever previously heard 
anything. Later I discovered that my instinct had not been 
wrong, and my contact with him has in every way been of great 
benefit to me and to my soul; for he knows how to treat persons 
whom the Lord seems to have brought to an advanced state: 
he makes them run, not walk a step at a time. His method is to 
train them in complete detachment and mortification, and for 
this, as for many other things, the Lord has given him the greatest 

When I began to have dealings with him, I realized at once 
what type of director he was, and saw that he had a pure and holy 
soul and a special gift from the Lord for the discernment of spirits. 
From this I derived much comfort. Soon after I came under his 
direction, the Lord began to lay it upon me again that I must 
take up the matter of the convent and put all my reasons and 
aims before my confessor and this Rector so that they should not 
hinder me. Some of the things I said made them afraid, but this 
Father Rector never doubted that I was being led by the Spirit 
of God, having studied and thought very carefully about the 
effects which would be produced by the foundation. In short, 
after hearing these numerous reasons, they did not dare to risk 
hindering me. 

My confessor now gave me leave once more to take up the 
work again with all my might. I saw clearly with what a task 
I was burdening myself, since I was quite alone and there was so 
very little that I could do. We agreed that the work should be 
done in all secrecy, and so I arranged that a sister of mine, 1 
who lived outside the town, should buy the house and furnish 
it, as if it were to be for herself, the Lord having given us money, 
from various sources, for its purchase. It would take a long time 
to tell how the Lord continued to provide for us. I thought it 
of great importance to do nothing against obedience, but I 
knew that, if I told my superiors about it, everything would be 
ruined, just 35 it was on the last occasion, and this time things 
might be even worse. Getting the money, finding a convent, 
arranging for its purchase and having it furnished cost me many 
trials, some of which I had to suffer quite alone; my companion 
did what she could, but that was little so little as to be hardly 
anything beyond allowing the work to be done in her name and 
with her approval. All the most difficult part of the work was 


mine and there were so many different things to do that I wonder 
now how I was able to go through with it. Sometimes in my 
distress I would say: "My Lord, how is it that Thou commandest 
me to do things which seem impossible? If only I were free, 
woman though I am ! But being bound in so many ways, 
without money or means of procuring it, either for the Brief or 
for anything else, what can I do. Lord?" 

Once, when I was in a difficulty and could not think what 
, to do, or how I was going to pay some workmen. Saint Joseph, 
my true father and lord, appeared to me and gave me to under- 
stand that money would not be lacking and I must make all the 
necessary arrangements. I did so, though I had not a farthing, 
and the Lord, in ways which amazed people when they heard of 
them, provided the money. 1 I thought the house very small, 
so small that it seemed impossible to turn it into a convent. 2 
I wanted to buy another, but had not the wherewithal, so there 
was no way of buying it, and I could not think what to do. 
There was a house near our own, but it was also too small to 
make into a church. One day, after I had communicated, the 
Lord said to me: "I have already told you to go in as best you 
can," and then added a kind of exclamation : "Oh, the greed 
of mankind! So you really think there will not be enough 
ground for you! 3 How often did I sleep all night in the open air 
because I had not where to lay My head!" This amazed me, 
but I saw that He was right. So I went to look at the little 
house, and worked things out, and found that it would just make 
a convent, though a very small one. I thought no more then 
about buying another site but arranged to have this house 
furnished so that we could live in it. Everything was very 
rough and it had only enough done to it not to make it injurious 
to the health. And that is the principle that should be followed 

On Saint Clare's day, as I was going to Communion, that 
Saint appeared to me in great beauty and told me to put forth 

1 The benefactor was St. Teresa's brother Lorenzo, who had emigrated to America, 
settled in what to-day is tiie capital of Ecuador and married a daughter of one of the 
conqmstadores of Peru. He came back to Spain a wealthy mart and did a great deal of 
good with his money. See Letters, a. 

* The house, which St. Teresa bought through the agency of her brother-in-law 
Don Juan de Ovalle, was indeed so small that all her biographers have compared 
it to the "little porch of Bethlehem" (Gf Foundations: Vol. Ill, p. 66, below). 
Julian de Avila (Vida de Santa Teresa, Part II, Chap VIII) describes the chapel as 
" hardly more than ten paces in length ' *. The diminutive bell used in this first convent 
was restored in 1868 to Avila from Pastrana, where it was taken in 1634, and now 
hangs beside the great bell which calls the religious to offices. 

3 [The second personal pronouns in this quotation are in the singular, but the 
phraseology is markedly colloquial, and to bring this out I have used "you" in 
preference to "thou".] 

230 LIFE [CHAP. 

all my efforts and proceed with what I had begun and she would 
help me. I conceived a great devotion for her and her words 
turned out to be the exact truth, for a convent of her Order, 
which is near our own, is helping to maintain us. What is more, 
she has gradually brought this desire of mine to such perfection 
that the poverty observed by the blessed Saint in her own house 
is being observed in this and we live upon alms. It has cost me 
no little trouble to get this principle quite definitely and authori- 
tatively approved by the Holy Father this, of course, being 
essential so that we shall never have any income. 1 And at the 
request, it may be, of this blessed Saint the Lord is doing still 
more for us. Without any demand on our part His Majesty is 
providing amply for all our needs. May He be blessed for it all. 

At this same period, on the festival of the Assumption of Our 
Lady, I was in a monastery of the Order of the glorious Saint 
Dominic, thinking of the many sins which in times past I had 
confessed in that house and of other things concerning my wicked 
life, when there came upon me a rapture so vehement that it 
nearly drew me forth out of myself altogether. 2 I sat down and I 
remember even now that I could neither see the Elevation nor 
hear Mass being said, and later this caused me a certain amount 
of scruple. While in this state, I thought I saw myself being 
clothed in a garment of great whiteness and brightness. At first 
I could not see who was clothing me, but later I saw Our Lady 
on my right hand and my father Saint Joseph on my left, and it 
was they who were putting that garment upon me. I was given 
to understand that I was now cleansed of my sins. When the 
clothing was ended, and I was experiencing the greatest joy and 
bliss, I thought that Our Lady suddenly took me by the hands 
and told me that I was giving her great pleasure by 'serving the 
glorious Saint Joseph and that I might be sure that all I was try- 
ing to do about the convent would be accomplished and that 
both the Lord and they two would be greatly served in it. I was 
not to fear that there would be any failure whatever about this, 
although the nature of the obedience which it would have to 
render might not be to my liking. They would keep us safe and 
her Son had already promised to go with us: as a sign that that 
was true, she said, she would give me this jewel, ' Then she seemed 

1 The original Brief (February 7, 1562), addressed to Dona Aldonza de Guzman 
and her daughter Dona Guiomar de UUpa, authorized them to hold property in 
common^ as the Saint had not at that time decided to forgo an endowment, A 
Rescript dated December 5, 1562, however, confirmed by Brief of July 17, 1565, 
granted the Convent permission to live on public charity, without a fixed revenue, 
believed to have come to the Saint in 1561,^11 the chapel known 


to throw round my neck a very beautiful gold collar, to which was 
fastened a most valuable cross. The gold and stones were so 
different from earthly things of the kind that no comparison 
between them is possible: their beauty is quite unlike anything 
that we can imagine and the understanding cannot soar high 
enough to comprehend the nature of the garment or to imagine 
the brightness of the vision which it was the Lord's will to send 
me, and by comparison with which everything on earth looks, 
as one might say, like a smudge of soot. 

The beauty which I saw in Our Lady was wonderful, though 
I could discern in her no particularly beautiful detail of form: 
it was her face as a whole that was so lovely and the whiteness 
and the amazing splendour of her vestments, though the light 
was not dazzling, but quite soft. The glorious Saint Joseph I 
did not see so clearly, though I could see plainly that he was 
there, as in the visions to which I have already referred and in 
which nothing is seen. Our Lady looked to me quite like a child. 
When they had been with me for a short time and caused me the 
greatest bliss and happiness more, I believe, than I had ever 
before experienced, so that I wished I need never lose it I 
seemed to see them ascending to Heaven with a great multitude 
of angels, I remained quite alone, but so greatly comforted 
and exalted and recollected in prayer, and so full of tender 
devotion, that I stayed for some time where I was, without 
moving, and unable to speak, quite beside myself. I was left 
with a vehement impulse to melt away in love for God, and 
with other feelings of a like kind, for everything happened in 
such a way that I could never doubt that this was of God, 
however hard I tried. It left me greatly comforted and full of 

As to what the Queen of the Angels said about obedience, 
the point of it is that it was a grief to me not to make over the 
convent to the Order, but the Lord had told me that it would 
not *be wise for me to do so. He gave me reasons for which it 
would be extremely unwise and told me to send to Rome, and to 
follow a r-.flrt-fl.iTi procedure, which He also described to me. 
He would see to it that that procedure should bring security. 
And so it came about. I sent as the Lord had told me had I 
not, we should never have concluded the negotiations and it 
turned out very well. As to the things which have happened 
since, it proved a very wise arrangement that we should be 
under the Bishop's obedience, but at the time I did not know 
this, nor did I even know who that prelate would be. But the 
Lord was pleased that he should be good and helpful to this 
house, as has been necessary, in view of all the opposition it has 

232 LIFE [CHAP. 

met with, which I shall recount later, and in order to bring it 
to the state it is now in. 1 Blessed be He Who has brought all this 
to pass! Amen. 


Describes how about this time she had to leave the place, for a reason 
which is given, and how her superior ordered her to go and comfort 
a great lady who was in sore distress. Begins the description of 
what happened to her there, of how the Lord granted her the great 
favour of being the means whereby His Majesty aroused a great 
person to serve Him in real earnest and of how later she obtained help 
and protection fwm Him. This chapter should be carefully noted. 

Despite all the care I took that nothing should be known 
of all this work that I was doing, it could not be done so secretly 
but that a few people heard of it: of these, some believed in it, 
while others did not. I was sorely afraid that they would say 
something about it to the Provincial when he came, and that he 
might then order me to stop, in which case all would be up with 
it. The Lord provided against this as follows. s It happened that, 
in a large city, 2 more than twenty leagues from here, there was a 
lady in great distress because of the death of her husband: 
her grief had reached such a pitch that there were fears for her 
health. 3 She had heard about this poor sinner for the Lord had 
ordained that people should speak well to her about me for other 
good purposes which resulted from this. This lady was well 
acquainted with the Provincial, and as she was an important 
person and knew that I lived in a convent where the nuns were 
allowed to leave the house, the Lord gave her a very great desire 
to see me : she thought that I might bring her comfort, which she 
could not find herself. So she began at once to use all possible 
means to get me to visit her, sending a great distance, for that 
purpose, to the Provincial. He sent me an order to go at once, 
under obedience, with a single companion. This message I 
received on Christmas night. 

It disturbed me a little and distressed me a great deal to think 
that she wanted me to come to her because she believed there 

lf The Bishop, when the foundation was made, was Don Alvaro de Mendoza 
(p. 227, n. i, above), who had taken possession of his office on December 4, 1560. He 
was greatly devoted to St. Teresa and a strong supporter of her Reform. 

* This lady was Dona Luisa de la Cerda, widow of Don Arias Pardo de Saavedra, 
who died in 1561, and daughter of the Duke of Medinaceli, who was in the direct 
line of descent from Alfonso X. 


was some good in me: knowing myself to be so wicked, I could 
not bear this. I commended myself earnestly to God; and, 
during the whole of Matins, or for a great part of it, I was in a 
deep rapture. The Lord told me I must go without fail and must 
not listen to people's opinions, as there were few who would 
advise me otherwise than rashly: to go might bring trials upon 
me, but God would be greatly served, and, as far as the convent 
was concerned, it would be as well if I were absent until the 
Brief arrived, because the devil had organized a great plot 
against the arrival of the Provincial; I was to fear nothing, 
however, for He would help me in this. I found this assurance 
a great strength and comfort. I told the Rector about it. He 
told me to go by all means, whereas others were telling me that 
I should not stand it, that it was an invention of the devU to bring 
some evil upon me there, and that I ought to send word about it 
to the Provincial. 

1 obeyed the Rector, and, after what I had learned in prayer, 
went without any fear, though not without the greatest confusion 
when I saw the reason of their sending for me and knew all the 
time how completely they were mistaken. This made me beseech 
the Lord still more earnestly that He would not abandon me. It 
was a great comfort to me that there was a house of the Company 
of Jesus in the place where I was going 1 : I thought I should feel 
fairly safe if I continued to be subject to their direction, as I 
was here. The Lord was pleased that the lady should be so much 
comforted that she began at once to grow markedly better: 
she felt more comforted every day. This was a notable achieve- 
ment, for, as I have said, her distress was causing her great 
depression: the Lord must have brought it about in response to 
the many prayers for the success of my enterprise which had been 
offered by the good people whom I knew. She was a most 
God-fearing lady and so good that her most Christian spirit made 
up for what was lacking in me. She conceived a great affection 
for me, as I also did for her when I saw how good she was. 
But almost everything was a cross for me: the comforts in her 
house were a real torment and when she made so much of me 
I was filled with fear. My soul had such misgivings that I dared 
not be careless, and the Lord was not careless of me, for while 
I was there He showed me the most signal favours 2 and these 
made me feel so free and enabled me so to despise all I saw 
and the more I saw, the more I despised it that I never treated 
those great ladies, whom it would have been a great honour to 

1 A Jesuit house had been founded at Toledo in 1558 by St. Francis Borgia. Its 
first Superior, P. Pedro Domenech, later became St. Teresa's confessor. 

2 Some of these favours are described on the Relations (cf. pp. 314-15, below) 

234 LIFE [CHAP. 

me to serve, otherwise than with the freedom of an equal. From 
this I derived great profit, and I told my lady so. I saw that she 
was a woman, and as subject to passions and weaknesses as I 
was myself. I learned, too, how little regard ought to be paid to 
rank, and how, the higher is the rank, the greater are the cares 
and the trials that it brings with it. And I learned that people 
of rank have to be careful to behave according to their state, 
which hardly allows them to live: they must take their meals 
out of the proper time and order, for everything has to be 
regulated, not according to their constitutions but according to 
their position; often the very food which they eat has more to 
do with their position than with their liking. 

So it was that I came to hate the very desire to be 
a great lady. God deliver me from this sinful fuss though 
I believe that, despite her being one of the most important in the 
kingdom, there are few humbler and simpler people than this 
woman. I was sorry for her, and I still am when I think how 
often she has to act against her own inclination in order to live 
up to her position. Then, with regard to servants, though hers 
were good, one can really place very little trust in them. It is 
impossible to talk more to one of them than to another; other- 
wise the favoured one is disliked by the rest. This is slavery; 
and one of the lies which the world tells is that it calls such 
persons masters, whereas in a thousand ways, I think, they are 
nothing but slaves. The Lord was pleased that, during the time 
I spent in that house, its inmates should come to render His 
Majesty better service, though I was not free from trials, or from 
certain jealousies on the part of some of them, on account of the 
great love which my lady had for me. They must surely have 
thought that I was working for some interest of my own. The 
Lord must have allowed such things to try me to some extent 
so that I should not become absorbed in the comforts which I 
was enjoying there, and He was pleased to free me from all 
this to my soul's profit. 

While I was there, it chanced that a religious arrived with 
whom for many years I had been in communication on various 
occasions and who was a person of great importance. 1 When 
I was at Mass in a monastery of his Order, which was near the 

1 Rlbera, Yepes and St. Teresa's early biographers in general suppose this religious 
to have been P, Vicente Barron, but modern editors follow Gracian, who, in the notes 
already referred to (pp. 7-8, above), identifies him as E. Garcia de Toledo. Of aristo- 
cratic stock (p. 139, n. i, above) this Dominican went to the Indies as a child with 
the Viceroy of Mexico, and professed in the capital of the Viceroyalty in 1535. 
Returning to Spain, he became Superior of the Avilan monastery in 1555. Later, 
he accompanied his cousin, who was appointed Viceroy of Peru, to that country, 
returning shortly before St. Teresa's death. 


house where I was staying, 1 the desire came to me to know about 
the state of his soul, for I wished him to be a great servant of God; 
so I got up in order to go to speak to him. But then, as I was 
already recollected in prayer, this seemed to me a waste of 
time. What right, I thought, had I to interfere with him? So 
I sat down again. This happened, I believe, no less than three 
times, but finally my good angel got the better of my evil angel 
and I went to ask for him and he came to one of the confessionals 
to speak to me. I began to question him about his past life, and 
he to question me about mine, for we had not seen one another 
for many years. I began to tell him that mine had been a life 
of many spiritual trials. He urged me to tell him what the trials 
were. I said that they were not such as could be told and that I 
ought not to say anything about them. He replied that, as the 
Dominican father to whom I have alluded 2 knew of them, and 
was a great friend of his, he would tell him about them at once, 
so that I need not mind doing so myself. 

The truth is, he could not help importuning me, any more, 
I think, than I could help talking to him; for, despite all the 
regret and shame which I used to feel when I discussed these 
things with him and with the Rector whom I have mentioned, 3 
I was not now in the least distressed in fact, I found it a great com- 
fort. I told him everything under the seal of confession. I had always 
taken him for a man of great intelligence, but now he seemed 
to me shrewder than ever, I thought what great talents and gifts 
he had and what a deal of good he could do with them if he gave 
himself wholly to God. For some years now I have felt like this 
I never see a person whom I like very much without immediately 
wishing that I could sefe him wholly given to God, and sometimes 
this yearning of mine is so strong that I am powerless against it. 
Though I want everybody to serve God, my desire that those 
whom I like may do so is particularly vehement, and so I become 
extremely importunate for them with the Lord. This is what 
happened in the case of the religious I am referring to. 

He asked me to commend him often to God: he had no need 
to do so, for my state of mind was such that I could not do 
otherwise, so I went to the place where I am in the habit of 
praying in solitude, and, with extreme recollection, began to 
speak to the Lord in that silly way in which I often speak to Him 
without knowing what I am saying; for it is love that speaks, 
and my soul is so far transported that I take no notice of the 

1 This monastery, dedicated to St. Peter Martyr, was in fact near the palace of the 
Duke of Medinaceli, which has been a Discalced Carmelite convent since 1607, 
and is not far from the Puerta del Gunbrdn. 

1 P. Pedro Ibdnez. 

3 P. Gaspar de Salazar. 

>36 LIFE [CHAP. 

listance that separates it from God. For the love which it knows 
iis Majesty has for it makes it forget itself and it thinks it is in 
-Km, and that He and it are one and the same thing without 
my division, and so it talks nonsense. I shed copious tears, 
md begged Him that that soul might really give itself up to His 
jervice, for, good as I thought him, I was not satisfied but wanted 
hum to be better still. And after praying in that way, I remember 
saying these words: "Lord, Thou must not refuse me this favour. 
Think what a good person he is for us to have as our friend/' 

Oh, the great goodness and humaneness of God, Who regards 
not the words but the desires and the good- will with which they 
are uttered! To think that His Majesty should allow such a 
person as myself to speak to Him thus boldly! May He be blessed 
for ever and ever. 

That night, I remember, I was greatly troubled during those 
hours of prayer, wondering if I had incurred the enmity of God. 
I could not be sure if I were in grace or no not that I wanted to 
be sure, but I wanted to die, so as to find myself ilo longer in a life 
in which I was not sure if I were c^ead or alive. For there could 
be no worse death for me than to think I had offended God and 
my distress about this caused me great depression: then I felt 
quite happy again, and, dissolving into tears, besought Him not to 
permit such a thing. I soon learned that I might safely take 
comfort and be certain 1 that I was in grace, since my love for 
God was so strong and His Majesty was working these favours 
in my soul and, of His compassion, giving it feelings which He 
would never give to a soul that was in mortal sin. I became 
confident that the Lord must surely do for this person what I 
begged of Him. He told me to say certain things to him. I was 
troubled about this, as I had no idea how to say them, and the 
thing I most dislike, as I have said, is having to take messages 
to a third person, especially if I am not sure how he will 
receive them or even that he will not make fun of me. So I 
was sorely distressed. But in the end I was quite persuaded that I 
must do it without fail, and I believe I promised God that I 
would, but I was so shy about it that I wrote down the message 
and handed it to him. 

The effect which it produced upon him showed clearly that 
it came from God, for he made a most earnest resolve to give 
himself to prayer, though he did not fulfil that resolve immedi- 
ately. As the Lord desired to have him for Himself, He had sent 

1 Luis de Leon substituted "trust*' (conftar) for the "be certain" (estar cierta) of the 
original manuscript, and other editors have followed him. But St. Teresa felt that the 
joint witness of a good conscience and her interior locutions gave her the moral 
certainty which she describes. 


through my instrumentality to tell him certain truths which> 
without my knowing it, were so opposite that he was astounded. 
The Lord must have prepared Mm to believe that they came 
from His Majesty. And for my part, miserable creature though 
I am, I kept beseeching the Lord to bring him right back to 
Himself and make him hate the pleasures and affairs of this life, 
And praised be God for ever! so he did, to such an extent 
that, every time he speaks to me, he astounds me. If I had not 
seen it for myself, I should have thought it doubtful that in so 
short a time God could have shown him such increased favours, 
and led him to become so completely immersed in Him that, so 
far as things of earth are concerned, he no longer seerps to be 
alive. May His Majesty hold him in His hand, for he has such 
profound self-knowledge that, if he advances farther, as I hope 
in the Lord he may, he will be one of the most notable of His 
servants and bring many souls great advantage. For in spiritual 
things he has had a great deal of experience in a short time, 
these being gifts bestowed by God when He wills and as He wills 
and having nothing to do either with time or with service. I 
do not mean that these latter things are unimportant but that 
often the Lord grants to one person less contemplation in twenty 
years than to others in one: His Majesty knows why. We are 
wrong if we think that in the course of years we are bound to 
understand things that cannot possibly be attained without 
experience, and thus, as I have said, many are mistaken if they 
think they can learn to discern spirits without being spiritual 
themselves. I do not mean that, if a man is learned but not 
spiritual, he may not direct a person of spirituality. But in both 
outward and inward matters which depend upon the course of 
nature, his direction will of course be of an intellectual kind, 
while in supernatural matters he will see that it is in conformity 
with Holy Scripture. In other matters he must not worry him- 
self to death, or think he understands what he does not, or quench 
the spirits, for these souls are being directed by another Master, 
greater than he, so that they are not without anyone over them. 
He must not be astonished at this or think such things are 
impossible: everything is possible to the Lord. He must strive to 
strengthen his faith and humble himself, because the Lord is 
perhaps making some old woman better versed in this science 
than himself, even though he be a very learned man. If he has 
this humility, he \vill be of more use both to other souls and to 
himself than if he tries to become a contemplative without being 
so by nature. I repeat, then, that if he has neither experience 
nor the deepest humility which will reveal to him how little he 
understands and show him that a thing is not impossible because 

238 LIFE [CHAP. 

he cannot understand it, he will gain little himself and the people 
who have to do with him will gain less. But, if he is humble, 
he need not fear that the Lord will allow either him or them to 
fall into error, 

Now this Father of whom I am speaking, and to whom in 
many ways the Lord has granted humility, has studied these 
matters and done his utmost to discover all that study can, reveal. 
For he is a very good scholar, and when he has no experience 
of a thing he consults those who have; and, as the Lord also helps 
him by granting him great faith, he has rendered a great deal of 
service both to himself and to certain souls, of which mine is one. 
For, as the Lord knew of the trials I had to endure, His Majesty, 
having seen good to call to Himself some who were directing me, 1 
seems to have provided others who have helped me in numerous 
trials and done me a great deal of good. The Lord has almost 
completely transformed this religious, until, as one might say, 
he hardly knows himself. Though formerly he had poor health, 
He has given him physical strength, so that he can do penance, 
and has made him valiant in all that is good, and has done other 
things for him as well. He seems, then, to have received a very 
special vocation from the Lord. May He be blessed for ever. 

All this good, I believe, has come to him from the favours 
which the Lord has granted him in prayer, for there is no mis- 
taking their reality. The Lord has already been pleased to test 
him in a number of situations, and from all these he has emerged 
like one who has amply proved the reality of the merit which we 
gain by suffering persecutions. I hope the Lord in His might will 
grant that much good may come through him to various members 
of his Order and to that Order itself. This is already beginning 
to be understood. I have seen great visions and the Lord has told 
me a number of very wonderful things about him and about the 
Rector of the Company of Jesus, whom I have already mentioned, 2 
and about two other religious of the Order of Saint Dominic: 3 
especially about one of them, to whom, for his own profit, the 
Lord has taught certain things which He 4 had previously taught 
me. From this Father of whom I am now speaking I have learned 
a great deal. 

To one of my experiences with him I will refer here. I was 
with him once in the locutory, and so great was the love that 

* Probably St. Peter of Akdntara (d. October 18, 1562) and P. IbdfLez (d. February 
2> J 5^5) C" P Ibanez is included, the reference has a bearing upon the date of this 
book: cf. p. & above and pp. 271-2, below.] 

* P. Caspar de Salazar. 

* PP. Pedro Ibanez and Domingo Bnez, especially the first-named. 

* [P. Sdverio reads "he", as though St Teresa could have learned things from the 
Dominican which the Lord taught him later! The pluperfect and the word "pre- 
viously" (antes) seem to settle the matter] 


my soul and spirit felt to be burning within him that I became 
almost absorbed, as I thought of the wonders of God, Who had 
raised a soul to so lofty a state in so short a time. It filled me with 
confusion to see him listening so humbly to what I was telling 
Kim about certain things concerning prayer. There was little 
enough humility in me that I could talk in this way with such a 
person, but the Lord must have borne with me because of the 
earnest desire that I had to see him make great progress. It helped 
me so much to be with him that he seemed to have left my soul 
ablaze with a new fire of longing to begin to serve the Lord all 
over again. O my Jesus, how much a soul can do when ablaze 
with Thy love ! What great value we ought to set on it and how 
we should beseech the Lord to allow it to remain in this life ! Any- 
one who has this love should follow after such souls if he is able. 

For one who has this sickness it is a great thing to find another 
stricken by it too. It is a great comfort to him to see that 
he is t not alone: the two are of mutual help in their sufferings 
and their deservings. They stand shoulder to shoulder, ready 
for God's sake to risk a thousand lives and longing for a chance 
to lose them. They are like soldiers who, in order to win booty 
and grow rich upon it, are spoiling for war, realizing that without 
fighting they can never become rich at all. Toiling in this way, 
in fact, is their profession. Oh, what a great thing it is, when the 
Lord gives this light, to know how much we are gaining in suffer- 
ing for His sake! But we cannot properly understand this until 
we have given up everything; for, if there is a single thing to which 
a man clings, it is a sign that he sets some value upon it; and if he 
sets some value upon it, it will naturally distress him to give it 
up, and so everything will be imperfection and loss. "He who 
follows what is lost is himself lost": that saying is appropriate 
here. And what greater loss, what greater blindness, what greater 
misfortune is there than to set a great price on what is nothing? 

Returning, then, to what I was saying: As I looked at that soul 
I rejoiced exceedingly and I think the Lord was desirous that I 
should have a dear view of the treasures He had laid up in it. So 
when I became aware of the favour which He had done me in 
bringing this to pass through my intervention, I realized how 
unworthy I was of it. I prized the favours which the Lord had 
bestowed upon him and considered them more my own than 
if they had actually been granted to me, and I praised the Lord 
repeatedly when I found that His Majesty was fulfilling my 
desires and had heard my prayer that He would awaken such 
persons as this. And then my soul, in such a state that it could 
not endure so much joy, went out from itself, and lost itself 
for its own greater gain. It abandoned its meditations, and r 

240 LIFE [CHAP. 

as it heard that Divine language, which seems to have been that 
of the Holy Spirit, I fell into a deep rapture, which caused me 
almost to lose my senses, though it lasted but for a short time. I 
saw Christ, in the greatest majesty and glory, manifesting His 
great satisfaction at what had been taking place. This He told 
me, and said that He wanted me to realize clearly that He was 
always present at conversations of this kind, for He was very 
pleased when people found their delight in talking of Him. 

At another time, when I was a long way from here, 1 I saw 
him being carried up to the angels in great glory. 2 By this vision I 
understood that his soul was making great progress, as indeed it 
was. For a cruel slander against his reputation had been started 
by a person whom he had helped a great deal and to whose 
reputation and to whose soul he had rendered a great service; 
and he had endured this very happily and had done other things 
which tended greatly to the service of God and had undergone 
other persecutions. I do not think it suitable to say more about 
this just now, but Your Reverence knows about it all, and in the 
future, if you think well, it can all be set down to the glory of the 
Lord. All the prophecies about this house to which I have already 
referred, and others of which I shall speak later, concerning both 
this house and other matters, have been fulfilled. Some the Lord 
made to me three years before they became known ; others, before 
that time, and others, again, since. And I always mentioned 
them to my confessor and to that widow who was a friend of 
mine, and with whom, as I said before, I was permitted to 
discuss them. She, I have learned, repeated them to other people, 
who know that I am not lying. God grant that I may never, in 
any matter, speak anything but the whole truth, especially on 
so serious a subject as this 1 

Once, when I was in great distress because a brother-in-law 
of mine 3 had died suddenly without being careful 4 to make his 
confession, I was told in prayer that my sister, too, would die in 
the same way and that I must go to see her and get her to prepare 
for death. I told my confessor about this, but he would not let 
me go; I then heard the same thing several times more. When he 
found that this was so, he told me to go, as no harm could possibly 
come of it. She lived in a village, 5 and I went there without 
telling her the reason but giving her what light I could about 

1 1.e , from Avila. 

8 According to Grecian, this was P. Garcia de Toledo. 

8 Don Martin de Guzman y Barnentos, husband of the Saint's half-sister Maria 
(p. 22, above). 

4 Thus St. Teresa in the autograph; but P. Bnez emended the phrase so that it 
read: "without having had the opportunity " The early editions follow the author, 
but later editors have tended to adopt the emendation. 

5 Cf. p. 1 8, n. 2, above. 


everything. I got her to go to confession very frequently and 
always to think of her soul's profit. She was very good and did 
as I said. Some four or five years after she had adopted these 
habits and begun to pay great heed to her conscience, she died 
in such circumstances that nobody could come to see her or hear 
her confession. So it was a fortunate thing that, following her usul 
custom, she had made her last confession little more than a week 
previously. When I heard of her death, it made me very happy 
to think that she had done so. She remained only a very short 
time in purgatory. 

It could hardly have been a week later when, just after I had 
communicated, the Lord appeared to me and was pleased to let 
me see her as He was taking her to glory. During all those years 
between the time when the Lord spoke to me and the time of her 
death, neither my companion 1 nor I forgot what I had been told, 
and, when she died, my companion came to me in amazement 
at the way in which it had all been fulfilled. God be praised for 
ever, Who takes such care of souls so that they are not lost! 


Continues the same subject the foundation of this house of our glorious 
Father Saint Joseph. Tells how the Lord brought it about that 
holy poverty should be observed there and why she left that lady, 
and describes several other things that happened to her. 

While I was with this lady whom I have mentioned, and with 
whom I stayed for over six months, 2 the Lord brought it about 
that a beata* of our Order, living more than seventy leagues 
from here, heard of me, and, happening to come this way, went 
some leagues out of her road to talk to me. 4 The Lord had 
inspired her, in the same year and month as He had inspired me, 

x Dona Guiomar de Ulloa. 

2 From January 1562 until the beginning of July of the same year. 

3 [A beata is a somewhat vague term denoting a woman who either lives in a religious 
community without being professed or keeping the full rule or lives under a rule in 
hen own house, wearing a distinctive habit but belonging to no community.] 

* Her name was Marfa de Jesus. Born at Granada in 1522, she had been left a 
widow when very young and had entered the convent of the Galced Carmelites of 
her native city. But, believing that God had called her to found a reformed house 
of the Order, she left the convent before making her profession and journeyed with 
some friends to Rome, where she eventually obtained a Brief for this purpose. Her 
attempts to make a foundation in Granada failed and it was then that she came 
to see St. Teresa, as described in this chapter. Later Dona Leonor de Mascarenas 
gave her a house at Alcald de Henares and the convent was founded in July 

242 LIFE [CHAP. 

to found another convent of this Order; and, as He had given 
her this desire, she sold all she had and walked barefoot to Rome 
to obtain the necessary patent. 

She is a woman greatly devoted to penance and prayer and 
the Lord granted her many favours. Our Lady had appeared 
to her and ordered her to undertake this task. She had done so 
much more than I in the service of the Lord that I was ashamed 
to be in her presence- She showed me the patents which she had 
brought from Rome and during the fortnight she was with me 
we made our plans as to how these convents were to be founded. 
Until I spoke to her, it had not come to my notice that our Rule, 
before its severity became mitigated, had ordered us to possess 
nothing, 1 and I had had no idea of founding a convent without 
revenue, my intention being that we should have no anxiety about 
necessaries, and I did not think of all the anxieties which are 
entailed by the holding of possessions. Though unable to read, 
this blessed woman had been taught by the Lord, and so she 
knew quite well what I did not, despite my having so often 
perused the Constitutions. And when she told me this, I thought 
it a good idea, though I was afraid that no one would ever agree 
with me, but say I was being ridiculous and tell me not to do 
things which would cause suffering to others. If I alone were 
concerned, nothing whatever should hold me back: on the 
contrary, it would be a great joy to me to think I was keeping 
the counsels of Christ our Lord, for His Majesty had already 
given me great desires for poverty. For my own part, I had 
never doubted that poverty was the soundest basis for a foundation. 
I had been wishing for days that it were possible for a person in 
my state of life to go about begging for love of God and have no 
house or any other possession. But I was afraid that, if others 
were not given these desires by the Lord, they would live in a 
state of discontent, and also that the thing would cause some 
distraction. I had seen a number of poor monasteries in which 
there was no great degree of recollection, and it had not occurred 
to me that their distraction was not due to their poverty, but that 
their poverty was the result of their not being recollected. Dis- 
traction does not make people richer and God never fails those 
who serve Him. In short, my faith was weak, whereas the faith 
of this servant of God was not. 

I sought the opinions of a great many people with regard to 
all this but found hardly anyone who shared my own neither 
my confessor nor the learned men whom I consulted about it. 

1 Chap VI of the Rule says: "NuBus fratrum sibi aliquid propfium csse dicat, 
sed sint vobis omnia commuma." Gregory IX, by a Brief dated April 6, 1229, forbade 
the Carmelites to possess houses, lands or money. 


They put before me so many contrary arguments that I did not 
know what to do; for, now that I had learned the nature of the 
Rule and realized that its way was that of greater perfection, 
I could not persuade myself to allow the house to have any 
revenue. True, they sometimes convinced me; but, when I 
betook myself to prayer again and looked at Christ hanging 
poor and naked upon the Cross, I felt I could not bear to be rich. 
So I besought Him with tears to bring it about that I might 
become as poor as He. 

I found that the possession of revenue entailed so many incon- 
veniences, and was such a cause of unrest, and even of distraction, 
that I kept on disputing about it with learned men. I wrote to 
that effect to the Dominican friar who was helping us, l and he 
answered me in a letter two sheets long, full of refutations and 
theology; in this he told me that he had made a close study of the 
subject, and tried to dissuade me from my project. I replied that 
I had no wish to make use of theology and should not thank him 
for his learning in this matter if it was going to keep me from 
following my vocation, from being true to the vow of poverty 
that I had made, and from observing Christ's precepts with due 
perfection. If I found anyone who would help me, I was delighted. 
The lady with whom I was staying 2 was of great assistance to me 
here. Some told me at the very beginning that they approved of 
my plan, but afterwards, on looking into it farther, found so 
many disadvantages in it that they once more urged me strongly 
to give it up. I told them that, though they had changed their 
opinions so quickly, I preferred to keep mine. 

It was at this time that, through my entreaties, for the lady 
had never seen him, the Lord was pleased that the saintly Fray 
Peter of Alcantara should come to her house. As one who was a 
great lover of poverty and had practised it for so many years, 
he knew how much wealth there was in it, and so he was a great 
help to me and told me that I must cany out my plan without 
fail. Once I had his opinion and help, which, as he had had the 
advantage of a long experience, none was better able to give, I 
resolved to seek no further opinions. 

One day, when I was earnestly commending my plan to God, 
the Lord told me that I must on no account fail to found the 
convent in poverty, for that was His Father's will, and His own 
will, and He would help me. I was in a deep rapture at the time, 
the effects of which were so marked that I could not possibly 
doubt that it had been of God. On another occasion He told me 
that money led only to confusion, and said other things in praise 

1 P. Ibdnez, then at Trianos. (Gf. p. 226, n. i, above.) 
a Dona Guiomar de Ulloa. 

244 LIFE [CHAP. 

of poverty, and assured me that none would ever lack the neces- 
saries of life if they served Him. For my own part, as I say, 
I was never afraid of being without these things. The Lord also 
changed the heart of the Presentado 3 I mean, of the Dominican 
friar who, as I have related, had written and told me not to 
make the foundation unless I had money. I was delighted at 
hearing this and at having the support of such opinions; I thought 
I had nothing less than all the riches in the world when I had 
resolved to live only on the love of God. 

It was about then that my Provincial 2 revoked his order and 
released me from the obligation of obedience which he had Ifcid 
upon me and which kept me in the place where I then was: 
he now left me free to do as I liked, so that I could go away for 
a time, if I wanted to do so, and, if I wanted to stay where I was, 
I could do that too. Just at that time there was to be an election 
in my convent, and I was warned that many of the nuns wanted 
to lay upon me the responsibility of being their superior. The 
very thought of this was such a torment to me that, though I 
was resolved and prepared to undergo any martyrdom for God's 
sake, I could not possibly persuade myself to accept this. For, 
apart from the great labour it would involve, on account of the 
large number of nuns there were, and for other reasons (such 
as tike fact that I was never fond of such work, and had not wanted 
to hold any office indeed, I had always declined to do so), I 
thought it would involve my conscience in grave peril, and so I 
praised God that I was not there. I wrote to my friends and asked 
them not to vote for me. 

Just as I was feeling very glad that I should not be getting 
mixed up in that commotion, the Lord told me that I must on 
no account fail to go : if I wanted a cross, there was a good one 
all ready for me and I was not to reject it but go on bravely, 
for He would help me; so I was to go at once. I was terribly 
worried and did nothing but weep, for I thought that this cross 
meant that I was to become Superior, and, as I say, I could not 
persuade myself that that would do the least good to my soul or 
see any way in which it possibly could. I told my confessor 3 
about it. He ordered me to see at once about going, saying that 
this was clearly the way of greatest perfection; but he added that, 
as the weather was very hot and it would suffice if I got there for 
the election, I could wait for a few days lest the journey should 
do me any harm. But the Lord had disposed it otherwise and I 

1 This title, here given to P, Ibanez, is an academic one, equivalent in the Order 
of St. Dominic to that of Licentiate [in English, to Bachelor of Arts, Divinity, etc.]. 

1 P. Angel de Salazar. He ordered St. Teresa to return from Toledo to Avila to be 
present at the election of a Prioress. 

* P. Pedro Domenech, Rector of the Toledo house of the Society of Jesus. 


had to leave then and there, so great were my inward restlessness 
and my inability to pray and my fear that I was being false to 
the Lord's command, and that I would not go and offer myself 
for the work because I was comfortable and at my ease where I 
was. I felt that I was rendering God nothing but lip-service. 
Why, if I had the chance of living a life of greater perfection, 
should I not take it? If I had to die, let me die. Together with 
these thoughts came an oppression of soul and the Lord took all 
the joy out of my prayer. In fact, I found myself in such torment 
that I begged the lady to be good enough to let me leave, and, 
when my confessor saw the state I was in, he told me to do so: 
God had moved him just as He had moved me. 

She was very sorry that I was leaving her, and this was a 
further trial, for it had cost her a great deal of trouble, and 
she had practised all kinds of importunities, to obtain permission 
from the Provincial for me to come. I thought it a very great 
thing that she should agree to my going, considering how she felt 
about it, but as she was a most God-fearing woman and I told 
her that if I went I might be doing a great service to God, as well as 
giving her many other reasons, and held out the hope that I 
might possibly come and see her again, she acquiesced in it, 
though with the greatest regret. 

For myself, I now no longer regretted going; for, as I realized 
that this would be conducive to greater perfection and to the 
service of God, and as pleasing Him always gives me pleasure, I 
bore my distress at leaving this lady, at seeing how sorry she was 
about it, and also at leaving others to whom I was greatly in- 
debted in particular, my confessor, a priest of the Society of 
Jesus, with whom I got on very well. The greater was the com- 
fort which I sacrificed for the Lord's sake, the happier I was to 
forgo it. I could not understand how this was possible, for I 
realized clearly that I was being moved by two contrary feelings : 
that is to say, I was rejoicing and being glad and finding comfort 
in what was oppressing my soul, for I was calmed and com- 
forted and had the opportunity of spending many hours in 
prayer. I saw that I was about to fling myself into a fire, for this 
the Lord had already told me, and that I was going to bear a 
heavy cross, though I never thought it would be as heavy as I 
afterwards found it to be. Yet, in spite of all this, I went off gladly, 
only chagrined that, since it was the Lord's will that I should 
enter the battle, I was not doing so immediately. Thus was His 
Majesty sending me strength and establishing it in my weakness. 1 

As I say, I could not understand how this was possible. But 
I thought of this comparison. If I possess a jewel, or something 

1 [An apparent reference to 2 Corinthians xii, 9.] 

246 LIFE [CHAP. 

which gives me great pleasure, and if I happen to discover that 
some person wants it whom I love better than myself, and I am 
more anxious for her pleasure than for my own comfort, it will 
give me greater happiness to go without it than it has given me 
to have it, because I shall be affording that person pleasure. 
And as the pleasure of pleasing her transcends my pleasure in 
having the jewel myself, my regret at no longer having it, or any- 
thing else that I like, and at losing the pleasure it gave me, will 
disappear. In the same way, although I wanted to feel sorry 
when I found that I was leaving people who so much regretted 
losing me, especially as I am such a grateful person by tempera- 
ment, I could not feel sorry any more, however hard I tried, 
though on any other occason it would have been enough to 
cause me great distress. 

It was so important for the affairs of this house that I should not 
delay for another day that I do not know how they would have 
been settled had I waited. Oh, the greatness of God! I am often 
astounded when I think about this and realize how specially 
anxious His Majesty was to help me carry out the business of this 
little corner of God's house (for such, I believe, it is) and this 
dwelling in which His Majesty takes His delight once, when I 
was in prayer, He told me that this house was the paradise of His 
delight. So it seems that His Majesty had chosen the souls whom 
He has drawn to Himself and in whose company I am living, 
feeling very, very much ashamed of myself, for I could never 
have expected to have souls like these for this plan of living in a 
state of such strict enclosure and poverty and prayer. Such is the 
joy and happiness of their lives that each of them thinks herself 
unworthy to have merited coming to such a place. This is 
particularly true of some, whom the Lord has called from all the 
vanity and parade of the world, in which, according to its own 
standards, they might have been happy. But here the Lord has so 
multiplied their happiness that they clearly recognize that in 
place of the one thong they have forsaken He has given them 
an hundredfold, and they are never tired of giving His Majesty 
thanks. Others He has changed from good to better. To the young 
He gives fortitude and knowledge so that they may desire nothing 
else and may learn that, even from an earthly standpoint, to live 
far from everything that has to do with this life is to live with the 
maximum of repose. To those who are older and whose health is 
poor He gives strength, as He has done in the past, to endure the 
same austerity and penance as all the rest. 

O my Lord, how abundantly dost Thou manifest Thy power! 
There is no need to seek reasons for what Thou wiliest, for Thou 
dost transcend all natural reason and make all things possible, 

XXXV] LIFE 1247 

thus showing clearly that we have only to love Thee truly, and 
truly to forsake everything for Thee, and Thou, my Lord, wilt 
make everything easy. It is well said, with regard to this, that 
"Thou feignest labour in Thy law", 1 for I do not see, Lord, and 
I do not know how the road that leads to Thee can be "narrow". 2 
To me it seems a royal road, not a pathway; a road along which 
anyone who sets out upon it in earnest travels securely. Mountain 
passes and rocks that might fall upon him I mean, occasions of 
sin are far distant. What I call a path, and a cruel path, and a 
really narrow road, is that which has on one side a deep gorge 
into which one may fall, and on the other side a precipice: 
hardly has a man relaxed his care than he falls over it and is 
dashed to pieces. 

He who truly loves Thee, my God, travels by a broad and a 
royal road and travels securely. It is far away from any precipice, 
and hardly has such a man stumbled in the slightest degree when 
Thou, Lord, givest him Thy hand. One fall and even many 
falls, if he loves Thee and not the things of the world will not be 
enough to lead him to perdition: he will be travelling along 
the valley of humility. I cannot understand why it is that people 
are afraid to set out upon the way of perfection. May the Lord, 
for His name's sake, make us realize how unsafe we are amid such 
manifest perils as beset us when we follow the crowd, and how 
our true safety lies in striving to press ever forward on. the way of 
God, Our eyes must be fixed upon Him and we must not be 
afraid that this Sun of Justice will set, or that He will 
allow us to travel by night, and so be lost, unless we first forsake 

People are not afraid to walk among lions, each of which seems 
to be trying to tear them to pieces- I mean among honours, 
delights and pleasures (as the world calls them) of that kind. 
The devil seems to be frightening us with scarecrows here. 
A thousand times have I been amazed by this; fain would I weep 
ten thousand times, till I could weep no more, and fain would I 
cry aloud to tell everyone of my great blindness and wickedness, 
in the hope that this might be of some avail to open their eyes. 
May He open them Who alone of His goodness can do so, and 
may He never allow mine to become blind again. Amen. 

1 Psalm xciii, 20 [A.V., xciv, 20]. 
s St. Matthew vii, 14. 

248 LIFE [CHAP. 


Continues the subject already begun and describes the completion of the 
foundation of this convent of the glorious Saint Joseph, and the great 
opposition and numerous persecutions which the nuns had to endure 
after taking the habit, and the great trials and temptations which 
she suffered, and how the Lord delivered her from everything vic- 
toriously, to His glory and praise. 

After leaving that city I went on my way very happily, resolved 
to suffer with the greatest willingness whatever it might please the 
Lord to send me. On the very night of my arrival in these parts 
there arrived our patent for the convent and the Brief from 
Rome. 1 I was astonished at this, and so were those who knew how 
the Lord had hastened my coming here, when they found how 
necessary it had proved to be and how the Lord had brought me 
here just in the nick of time. For here I found the Bishop and the 
saintly Fray Peter of Alcantara, and another gentleman, 2 a great 
servant of God, in whose house this saintly man was staying he 
was one with whom God's servants could always find hospitality. 

Between them, these two persuaded the Bishop to sanction 
the foundation of the convent. This was by no means easy, 3 
as it was to be founded in poverty, but he was so much drawn to 
people whom he saw determined to serve the Lord that he at 
once inclined to the idea of helping it. The whole thing was due 
to the approval of this saintly old man and the way he urged 
first one person and then another to come to our aid. If, as I have 
already said, I had not arrived at this particular moment, I 
cannot see how it could have been done, for this saintly man 
was here only for a few days not more than a week, I believe 
and during that time he was very ill : not long afterwards the Lord 
took him to Himself. It seems as if His Majesty had prolonged his 
life until this business was settled, for he had for some time been 
in very poor health I fancJy for over two years. 

1 This Brief of Pius IV was dated February 7, 1562. It would have been the begin- 
ning of July when it reached Avila. 

2 Probably not Don Francisco de Salcedo, as is generally supposed, but Don Juan 
Bldzquez, father of the Count of Uceda, as it was he with whom St Peter of Alcdntara 
usually stayed when at Avila. 

3 It certainly was not. When St. Peter of Alcantara reached Avila, the Bishop was 
away. Fray Peter went to the village where he was staying to see him and found him 
completely opposed to the,* establishment of a convent without an endowment. He 
persuaded him, however, to come back to Avila and visit St. Teresa at the Incarnation, 
and as a result of the interview he withdrew all his objections and became her staunch 
supporter. * 


Everything was done with great secrecy: had it been otherwise, 
nothing could have been done at all, for, as appeared later, the 
people were opposed to the plan. The Lord had ordained that a 
brother-in-law of mine 1 should fall ill, and, his wife not being 
with him, should be in such need of me that I was given leave to 
go and stay with him. This prevented anything from being 
discovered, and, though a few people must have been rather 
suspicious, they did not think there was anything in it. The 
remarkable thing was that his illness lasted only for just the time 
we needed for our negotiations, and, when it was necessary for 
him to be better so that I could be free again and he could go away 
and leave the house, the Lord at once restored him to health, 
and he was amazed at it. 

What with one person and what with another, I had a great 
deal of trouble in getting the foundation sanctioned. Then Siere 
was my patient, and there were the workmen for the house had 
to be got ready very quickly, so that it would be suitable for a 
convent, and there was a great deal which had to be done to it. 
My companion 2 was not here, for we thought it advisable that she 
should be away so that the secret might be the better kept. I saw 
that speed was of the first importance, and this for many reasons, 
one of them being that I was in hourly fear of being sent back to 
my own convent. So many were the trials I had to suffer that I 
began to wonder if this was my cross, though I thought it very 
much lighter than the heavy one which I had understood the Lord 
to say I should have to bear. 

When everything had been arranged, the Lord was pleased that 
some of the sisters 3 should take the habit on Saint Bartholomew's 
Day and on that day too the Most Holy Sacrament was placed in 
the convent. So with the full weight of authority this convent 

1 Don Juan de Ovalle. He had come to Toledo, while St. Teresa was there, to 
inform her of the progress being made with the house which was to become the 
Reformed foundation, and had intended to return thence to Alba, But he fell ill at 
Avila on his way back: Dona Juana was, of course, at Alba. It was in these 
circumstances that St. Teresa was allowed to go and stay with him, which, as she 
suggests in the text, gave her the opportunity to complete the preparations for the 
new foundation in secrecy. 

2 Dona Guiomar was away at Toro. 

3 These were Antoma de Henao (del Espiritu Santo), a penitent of St. Peter of 
Alcantara; Maria de la Paz (de la Cruz) who had been living with Dona Guiomar 
de Ulloa, in whose house she first met St. Teresa; Ursula de Revilla (de los Santos), 
recommended to the Saint by Caspar Daza; Maria de Avila (de San Jose"), sister of 
Julian de Avila. The names given in brackets are those taken by these nuns in 
religion The Bishop deputed P. Daza to give them the habit St Teresa was present, 
with two of her cousins who were nuns at the Incarnation and later joined the Reform; 
and others who attended were Gonzalo de Aranda, Salcedo, Ovalle and his wife and 
Julian de Avila. The Cathedral Chapter at Avila stall celebrates a solemn Mass, at 
St. Joseph^, yearly, on St. Bartholomew's Day, and a sermon is preached, in com- 
memoration of the historic occasion. 

250 LIFE [CHAP. 

of our most glorious father Saint Joseph was founded in the year 
1562. I was there to give the habit, with two other nuns of our own 
house, who chanced to be absent from it. As the house in which 
the convent was established belonged to my brother-in-law, who, 
as I have said, had bought it in order to keep the matter secret, 
I was there by special permission, and I did nothing without 
asking the opinion of learned men, lest in any way whatever I 
should act against obedience. As they saw what benefits, in 
numerous ways, were being conferred upon the whole Order, 
they told me I might do what I did, although it was being done in 
secret and I was keeping it from my superiors' knowledge. Had they 
told me that there was the slightest imperfection in this, I think 
I would have given up a thousand convents, let alone a single one. 
Of that I am sure; for, though I desired to make the foundation 
so that I could withdraw more completely from everything and 
fulfil my profession and vocation with greater perfection and in 
conditions of stricter enclosure, I desired it only with the proviso 
that if I found that the Lord would be better served by my aban- 
doning it entirely, I should do so, as I had done on a former 
occasion, with complete tranquillity and peace. 

Well, it was like being in Heaven to me to see the Most Holy 
Sacrament reserved, and to find ourselves supporting four poor 
orphans (for they were taken without dowries) 1 who were great 
servants of God. From the very beginning we tried to receive 
only persons whose examples might serve as a foundation on 
which we could effectively build up our plan of a community 
of great perfection, given to prayer, and carry out a work which 
I believed would lead to the Lord's service and would honour 
the habit of His glorious Mother. It was for this that I yearned. 
It was also a great comfort to me that I had done what the Lord 
had so often commanded me and that there was one more church 
here than there had previously been, dedicated to my glorious 
Father Saint Joseph. Not that I thought I had done anything 
of all this myself; I never thought that nor do I now; I have always 
known that it was done by the Lord. The part of it which con- 
cerned me was so full of imperfections that I can see I ought to 
have been blamed rather than thanked for it. But it was a great 
comfort to me to see that in such a great work as this His Majesty 
had taken me, wicked as I am, to be His instrument. I was so 
happy, therefore, that I was quite carried away by the intensity 
of my prayer. 

When everything was finished it might have been about 

1 The Book of Professions belonging to St. Joseph's, nevertheless, shows that, on 
entering the convent, Antonia del Espfritu Santo and Ursula de los Santos brought 
sums s& alms. 


three or four hours afterwards the devil plunged me into a 
spiritual battle again, as I shall now relate- He made me wonder 
if what I had done had not been a mistake and if I had not been 
acting against obedience in arranging it all without a mandate 
from the Provincial. It had certainly occurred to me that the 
Provincial would be rather displeased at my having placed the 
convent under the jurisdiction of the Ordinary, without having 
first told him about it, though, on the other hand, as he had not 
been prepared to sanction it and I had not altered my plans, I 
had also imagined that he might not trouble about it. The devil 
also asked me if people living under so strict a rule would be 
contented, if they would have enough to eat, and if the whole 
thing was not ridiculous and what reason had I to mix myself 
up in it, seeing that I was already in a convent of my own? All 
that the Lord had commanded me, all the opinions I had been 
seeking and the prayers I had been saying almost continuously 
for over two years all these things fled from my memory as if 
they had never existed. The only thing I remembered now was 
my own opinion; and faith, and all the virtues, were suspended 
in me, and I had not the power to turn any of them into practice 
or to defend myself against all these blows. 

The devil would also put it to me how, when I was so often 
indisposed, I could want to endure so much penance, to leave 
such a large, pleasant house, where I had always been so happy, 
and to give up so many friends for people in this other convent 
who would perhaps not be to my liking. Then he suggested that 
I had undertaken a great deal and might possibly have to 
abandon it as hopeless. Indeed, he said, might it not be the devil 
himself who had induced me ttf do this, in order to deprive me of 
peace and quiet? And, once I was inwardly disturbed, I might 
be unable to pray, and then my soul would be lost. Things of 
this kind he suggested to me one after another, till I found it 
impossible to think of anything else, and at the same time he 
plunged my soul into such affliction and obscurity and darkness 
as I cannot possibly describe., When I found myself in this state, 
I went to visit the Most Holy Sacrament, though I felt unable to 
commend myself to God. I really think my anguish was like a 
death agony. And I dared not discuss it with anyone, for as yet 
I had not even been given a confessor. 

Oh, God help me! What a miserable life is this! There is 
no happiness that is secure and nothing that does not change. 
Here I was, such a short time ago, thinking I would not exchange 
my happiness with anyone on earth and now the very cause of it 
was tormenting me so sorely that I did not know what to do with 
myself. Oh, if only we thought carefully about the things of life, 

252 LIFE [CHAP. 

we should each find by experience how little either of happiness 

or of unhappiness there is to be got from it ! I certainly think 

this was one of the worst times that I have ever spent in my life; 

my spirit seemed to be divining all that it would have to suffer, 

though I never had to endure as much suffering as this would 

have caused me had it lasted. But the Lord did not allow His 

poor servant to suffer long: in all my tribulations He has never 

failed to succour me. So it was here. He gave me a little light, so 

that I should see that it was the work of the devil, understand the 

truth and know that this was simply an attempt to frighten me 

with falsehoods. Then I began to remember my firm resolutions to 

serve the Lord and my desires to suffer for Him. I realized that, 

if I was to carry them out, I must not go about looking for 

repose; that, if I was to have trials, this was the way to win merit; 

and if I was to be unhappy and used my unhappiness in order to 

serve God, it would serve me as a kind of purgatory. 1 What was 

I afraid of? I asked myself. I had been wanting trials, and here 

were some good ones, and the greater was the opposition I en* 

dured, the greater would be my gain. Why was I lacking in 

courage to serve Him to Whom my debt was so great? By means 

of these and other reflections, I made a great effort, and in the 

presence of the Most Holy Sacrament promised to do all I could 

to get permission to enter this new house, and, if I could do so 

with a good conscience, to make a vow of enclosure. 

The instant I had done this, the devil fled, leaving me quiet 
and happy; and I remained so and have been so ever since. All 
the rules we observe in this house concerning enclosure, penance 
and other things of that sort I find extremely easy and there are 
not many of them. So great is my happiness that I sometimes 
wonder what earthly choice I could possibly have made which 
would have been more delightful. I do not know if this has any- 
thing to do with my being in much better health than ever before, 
or whether, because it is right and necessary that I should do as 
all the others do, the Lord is being pleased to comfort me by 
enabling me to keep the Rule, though it costs me something to do 
so. But my ability to keep it astonishes all who know my infirmities. 
Blessed be He Who gives everything and in Whose strength this 
can be done! 

After this conflict I was sorely fatigued, but I laughed at the 
devil, for I saw clearly that it was his doing. As I have never 
known what it was to be discontented with being a nun not for 
a single moment of the twenty-eight years and more that have 
gone by since I became one I think the Lord permitted what 
had taken place so that I might understand what a great favour 

1 [A characteristic play upon words- cf. Introduction, p. xxi, above]. 


He had granted me in this, and from what torment He had 
delivered me, and also in order that, if I ever saw anyone in that 
state, I should not be alarmed, but should be sorry for her and 
know how to comfort her. When this was over, I wanted to get 
a little rest after dinner. (All the previous night I had had 
hardly any peace of mind; and on several of the preceding nights 
I had been continuously troubled and worried; so that during 
each day I had felt worn out. For now what we had done be- 
came known in my convent and in the city, and for the reasons 
I have given there was a great deal of commotion not, it seemed, 
without some cause.) But the Superior 1 sent for me to come to her 
immediately. On receiving the order, I went at once, leaving 
my nuns terribly upset. I was well aware that there was ample 
trouble in store for me, but, as the thing was now done, I cared 
very little about that. I prayed to the Lord and begged Him to 
help me and besought my father Saint Joseph to bring me back 
to his house. I offered up to God all I should have to suffer, very 
happy at having some suffering to offer Him and some service 
to render. I went in the belief that I should at once be put 
in prison. This, I think, would have been a great joy to me, 
as I should not have had to talk to anyone and should have 
been able to rest for a little and be alone and I needed that 
very badly, for all this intercourse with people had worn me to 

When I got there and gave the Superior my version of the 
affair, she relented a little, and they all sent for the Provincial 2 
and laid the case before him. He came, and I went to hear his 
judgment with the utmost happiness, thinking that there would 
now be something for me to suffer for the Lord. I could not 
discover that I had committed any offence either against His 
Majesty or against the Order indeed, I was striving with all 
my might to strengthen the Order and to do this I would willingly 
have died, for my whole desire was that its Rule should be 
observed with all perfection. But I remembered the trial of Christ 
and realized that this, by comparison, was nothing at all. I 
acknowledged my fault, as if I had acted very wrongly, and so in 
fact I must have appeared to have done to anyone who did not 
know all the reasons. The Provincial gave me a severe rebuke, 
though its severity was less than would have been justified by the 
report which many people had given him of my delinquency. I 
would not excuse myself, for I had already resolved not to do so, 

1 Grecian, in his notes, says that this was Dana Isabel de Avila, but this Prioress 
was succeeded, on August 12, 1562, by Dona Maria Cimbr6n, who seems therefore 
to be the person referred to. 

1 P. Angel de Salazar. 

254 LIFE [CHAP. 

but begged him to forgive me, to punish me and not to be annoyed 
*vith me any longer. 

In some ways I knew quite well that they were condemning 
me unjustly, for they told me that I had done this so as to win 
esteem for myself, to get well known, and so on. But in other 
ways it was clear to me that they were speaking the truth in 
saying that I was more wicked than other nuns, and in asking 
how, if I had not kept all the numerous rules 'observed in that 
house, I could consider keeping stricter rules in another : I should be 
scandalizing the people, they said, and setting up new ideas. None 
of this caused me the least trouble or distress, though I gave the 
impression that it did, lest I should appear to be making light of 
what they were saying. Finally, I was commanded to state my 
version of the matter in the presence of the nuns, so I had to do so. 

As I was inwardly calm and the Lord helped me, my account of 
the affair gave neither the Provincial nor the others present 
any reason for condemning me. Afterwards, when I was alone 
with him, I spoke to him more plainly, and he was quite satisfied, 
and promised me, if my foundation succeeded, to give me per- 
mission to go there as soon as the city was quiet for there had 
been a very great commotion in the city, as I shall now relate. 1 

Two or three days before, there had been a meeting between 
the Mayor and certain members of the City Council and of the 
Chapter, and they had all agreed that this new convent must 
on no account be sanctioned, that it would cause notable harm 
to the common weal, that the Most Holy Sacrament must be 
removed and that the matter must on no account be allowed to 
go any farther. They summoned a meeting of representatives 
of all the Orders two learned men from each to obtain their 
opinions. Some said nothing; others were condemnatory. 
Finally, they decided that the foundation must be dissolved at 
once. There was only one of them, a Presentado of the Order 
of Saint Dominic, 2 who was not opposed to the convent, though 
he objected to its poverty: he said that there was no reason for 
dissolving it, that the question should be gone into with care, 
that there was plenty of time for doing so, that it was the Bishop's 
affair, and other things of that kind. This did a great deal of 
good : to judge by their fury, it was fortunate for us that they had 
not proceeded to dissolve the foundation on the spot. The fact 

1 [P. Silverio (I, 31 1, n. i) gives a long independent account of the "commotion" 
namly from Julian de Avila's biography of St. Teresa I do not reproduce this, as 
>t. Teresa's own narrative would seem sufficiently detailed. The Bishop's strong 
upport of the new foundation is an outstanding feature of the events here related.] 

2 P. Banez, who wrote here, in the margin of the autograph: "This was at the end 
)f August in the year 1562. I was there and gave this opinion. Fr. Domingo Banes. 
\nd I sign this on May 2, 1575, when this Mother has founded nine convents in 
vhich the Rule is strictly observed.'* 


was that the convent had been destined to be founded, for its 
foundation was the Lord's will and against that the whole body 
of them were powerless. They gave reasons for what they did 
and showed great zeal for what was good, and so, without offend- 
ing God, made me, and all the people who were helping the pro- 
ject, suffer: there were a number of these and they all had to go 
through a great deal of persecution. 

All this made such a commotion in the city that people talked 
about nothing else. Everybody was condemning me and going 
to see the Provincial and visiting my convent. I was no more 
distressed by all they were saying about me than I should have 
been if they had said nothing at all, but I was afraid that the 
foundation might be dissolved, and that distressed me a great 
deal, as it did to see that the people who were helping me were 
losing credit and suffering such great trials. I believe what they 
had been saying about me made me rather glad. If I had had a 
little faith, I should not have let it worry me at all, but a slight 
failing in a single virtue is sufficient to deaden all the rest* So 
I was greatly distressed during the two days in which these 
meetings I have mentioned were being held in the town. Once, 
when I was quite worn out, the Lord said to me: "Knowest 
thou not how powerful I" am? What dost thou fear?" and He 
assured me that the foundation would not be dissolved. This 
brought me great comfort. They sent the information which 
they had obtained to the Royal Council and a reply came requir- 
ing a report to be made on how all this had arisen. 

Here we were, then, at the beginning of legal proceedings. 
The city sent representatives to the capital, and it was clear 
that the convent would have to send some too, but there was no 
money for this and I had no idea what to do. However, the Lord 
provided, and my Father Provincial never ordered me to with- 
draw from the business, for he is a lover of everything that is good, 
and, though he did not help us, he would not take the other side. 
But until he saw what the outcome of all this was going to be, 
he did not give me permission to come and live here. So those 
servants of God were alone in the house and their prayers were 
more effective than all my negotiations, though I had to be 
extremely diligent about these. Sometimes it seemed that every- 
thing was going wrong: this was particularly so one day, before 
the arrival of the Provincial, when the Prioress ordered me to 
have no more to do with the matter and to give it up altogether. 
I went to God and said: "Lord, this house is not mine; it has been 
founded for Thee; and now there will be no one to carry on the 
negotiations, so Thy Majesty must do so." This calmed me and 
left me as free from worry as if I had had the whole world carrying 

256 LIFE [CHAP. 

on the negotiations for me; from that moment I felt quite sure 
they would prosper. 

A priest, who was a great servant of God and a lover of all 
perfection, and who had always been a great help to me, 1 went 
to the capital to take the matter in hand and worked very hard 
at it. That saintly gentleman of whom I have made mention 
also did a very great deal in the matter and helped in every way 
he could. He suffered many trials and great persecution over 
this and I always found him a father in everything and find him 
so still. Those who helped me were inspired by the Lord with 
such fervour that each of them regarded the matter as if it were 
his own and as if his own life and reputation were at stake, 
when it had really nothing to do with them except in so far as they 
believed it to be for the Lord's service. It seemed clear, too, that 
His Majesty was helping the cleric I have referred to, who was 
another of my great helpers, and whom the Bishop sent to 
represent him at an important meeting which was held. Here 
he stood out alone against all the others and eventually pacified 
them by suggesting certain expedients which did a great deal to 
bring about an agreement. But nothing was sufficient to dissuade 
them from putting their whole weight, as we say, into smashing 
us. It was this servant of God of whom I am speaking who gave 
us the habit and reserved the Most Holy Sacrament for us, 2 
and as a result found himself sorely persecuted. This commotion 
lasted for six months, and it would take a long time to give a 
detailed description of the severe trials which we had to suffer. 

I was astonished at all the trouble that the devil was taking to 
hurt a few poor women, and how everybody thought that twelve 
women and a prioress (for I must remind those who opposed 
the plan that there were to be no more) could do such harm to 
the place, when they were living so strictly. If there had been any 
harm or error in their project it would have concerned themselves 
alone; harm to the city there could not possibly be, and yet our 
opponents found so much that they fought us with, a good con- 
science. Eventually they said they would allow the matter to 
go forward if the convent had an endowment. By this time I 
was so wearied, more by all the trouble my helpers were having 
than by my own, that I thought it would not be a bad idea to 
accept some money until the storm subsided, and then to give it 
up. At other times, like the wicked and imperfect woman I am, I 
would wonder if perhaps it was the Lord's will that we should 
have an endowment, as it seemed impossible for us to get anywhere 
without one. So in the end I agreed to this arrangement. 

The discussion of it had already begun, when, on the very night 

1 Gonzalo de Aranda. 2 Caspar Daza (see p 147, n i, above). 


before it was to be concluded, the Lord told me that I must not 
agree to such a thing, for, if once we had an endowment, we 
should never be allowed to give it up again. He said various other 
things as well* That same night there appeared to me the holy 
Fray Peter of Alcantara, who was now dead. 1 Before his death, 
knowing how much opposition and persecution we were meeting 
with, he had written to me 2 saying he was delighted the founda- 
tion was encountering all this opposition, for the efforts which 
the devil was making to prevent the establishment of the convent 
were a sign that the Lord would be very well served there; and 
he had added that I must on no account allow the place to have 
any revenue. He had insisted upon this in the letter two or three 
times, and said that, if I were firm about it, everything would turn 
out as I wished. Since his death I had seen him on two previous 
occasions and had had a vision of the great bliss that he was 
enjoying. So his appearance caused me no fear indeed, it 
made me very happy, for he always appeared as a glorified 
body, full of great bliss, and it gave me the greatest joy to see 
him. I remember that, the first time I saw him, he told me among 
other things how great was his fruition, adding that the penances 
he had done had been a happy thing for hun, since they had 
won him such a great reward. 

As I think I have already said something about this, I will 
say no more here than that on this occasion he spoke to me with 
some severity. All he said was that I was on no account to accept 
any endowment and asked why I would not take his advice; he 
then immediately disappeared. I was astounded, and on the next 
day I told that gentleman what had happened, for I used to 
consult him about everything, as he was the person who helped 
us^most. I told him on no account to allow the agreement about 
our endowment to be concluded, but to let the lawsuit continue. 
He was more definite about this than I and was delighted at what 
I said; he told me afterwards how much he had regretted having 
given the agreement his approval. 

There then came forward another person, a zealous and 
devoted servant of God, 3 who suggested that, now this point was 
satisfactorily settled, 4 the matter should be put into the hands of 

1 [This vision, then, occurred after October 18, 1562, the date of St. Peter's death.] 

2 Marchese, St. Peter of Alcantara's biographer, confirms this statement. Daza 
had been to Arenas to visit him a few days before his death and had brought him a 
letter from Salcedo telling of the opposition with which St Teresa was meeting a^d 
of the reason for it. This news inspired him to write encouraging her to continue. 

* Mir (Santa Teresa de Jfinfr, Madrid, 1912, 1, 559) suggests that this was P. Baltasar 
Alvarez, but gives insufficient evidence for the supposition, nor does any further 
evidence appear to exist. 

4 [This phrase, ya que cstaba en bttenos tirmmos* presents some difficulty. Lewis 
translates, more or less literally, "the matter was in good train"; but, in actual fact, 

258 LIFE [CHAP. 

learned men. This caused me a good deal of uneasiness, for some 
of my helpers agreed to that course and the unravelling of this 
tangle in which the devil now involved us was the most difficult 
task of all. Throughout everything the Lord helped me, but 
in this summary narrative it is impossible to give an adequate 
description of what happened in the two years between the 
beginning of the foundation and its completion. The first six 
months and the last were the most troublesome. 

When the city was finally somewhat calmed, the Dominican 
Father-Presentado 1 who was helping us managed things for us 
very well. He had not previously been there, but the Lord 
brought him at a time which was very convenient for us, and His 
Majesty seems to have done so for that end alone, for he told me 
afterwards that he had had no reason for coining and had only 
heard of the matter by accident. He stayed with us for as long 
as was necessary. When he left, he managed somehow it 
seemed impossible that he could have done this in so short a time 
to get our Father Provincial to give me leave to go and live in the 
new house and to take some other nuns with me so that we might 
say the Office and instruct the sisters who were there. It was the 
happiest of days for me when we went in. 2 

While at prayer in the church, before entering the convent, 
I all but went into a rapture, and saw Christ, Who seemed to be 
receiving me with great love, placing a crown on my head and 
thanking me for what I had done for His Mother. On another 
occasion, after Compline, when we were all praying in choir, I 
saw Our Lady in the greatest glory, clad in a white mantle, 
beneath which she seemed to be sheltering us all. 8 From this I 
learned what a high degree of glory the Lord would give to the 
nuns in this house, 

as the following lines make clear, it was not only the acceptance of the endowment, 
it seemed, could have resolved the conflict. I take the author's meaning to be that, 
from her point of view, the position was clarified there was a straight issue she no 
longer had to contend with her own subconscious aversion from financial help ] 

1 P. Ibanez. 

2 Despite his good will, the Provincial found certain obstacles in the way of his 
granting this permission, and, although apparently he did so verbally on July 3, 1 563, 
it was not unul August 22 that he was able to issue a patent giving leave to Dofia 
Teresa de Ahumada, Maria Ord6nez, Ana G6mez and Maria de Cepeda to transfer 
to St. Joseph's. The Nuncio's confirmation of this patent, as far as it affected St. 
Teresa, was dated August 21, 1564. P, Jer6nimo de San Jose* infers from the Preface 
to the Foundations (Vol. Ill, p. xxi, below) that St. Teresa was living at St Joseph's in 
December 1562 [though I do not myself think that, considering how near that convent 
was to the Incarnation, the words of the reference necessarily mean this."] Others 
think she went there in March 1563, the date given by Maria Pinel in her manuscript 
History of the Convent of the Incarnation. The earliest extant records at St. Joseph's 
give no help, as they date only from 1580. 

8 At one time every Discalced Carmelite convent had a picture representing this 


When we had started to say the Office, the people began to 
be very much devoted ta the convent. More nuns were received 
and the Lord started to move the people who had persecuted 
us most to help us and give us alms. So they now found them- 
selves approving what previously they had so strongly condemned 
and gradually they abandoned the lawsuit and said they now 
realized the work was of God, since His Majesty had seen well to 
further it despite so much opposition. There is no one now who 
thinks it would have been right to give up the foundation, so they 
are very anxious to provide for us with their alms ; and, without 
our making any appeals or asking anyone for money, the Lord 
inspires people to send it. We get on very well, then, and have no 
lack of necessaries; I hope in the Lord that this will be the case 
always. As the nuns are few in number I am sure His Majesty 
will never fail them if they do their duty, as at present He is 
giving them grace to do; nor will they ever have to be burdensome 
or importunate, for the Lord will take care of them as He has 
done until now. It is the greatest happiness to me to find myself 
among souls with detachment. 

Their life consists in learning how to advance in the service 
of God. They find their greatest happiness in solitude and it 
troubles them to think of seeing anyone even a near relative 
unless doing so will help to enkindle them in the love of their 
Spouse. So none come to this house save with that aim; were 
they to do so it would give pleasure neither to themselves nor 
to the sisters. They speak only of God, and they understand 
no one who speaks of anything else, nor does such a person under- 
stand them. We observe the rule of Our Lady of Carmel, and we 
keep it without mitigation, in the form drawn up by Fray Hugo, 
Cardinal of Santa Sabina, and given in the year 1248, in the fifth 
year of the pontificate of Pope Innocent IV. 

All the trials that we have suffered will, I believe, have been 
endured to good purpose. The rule is rather strict, for meat is 
never eaten except in cases of necessity, there is an eight-months' 
fast, and there are other ascetic practices, as may be seen in the 
primitive Rule. Yet many of these things seem to the sisters 
very light and they observe other rules which we have thought it 
necessary to make so that our own Rule may be kept the more 
perfectly. I hope in the Lord that what we have begun will 
prosper, as His Majesty told me it would. 

The other house which the beata I spoke of 1 was endeavouring 
to establish has also enjoyed the Lord's favour. It was founded in 

1 Maria de Jesus. Cf, p. 241, n. 3, above. Having more fervour than discretion, 
this lady went to such lengths in the austerities which she imposed that life in her 
convent became impossible and in 1567 St. Teresa had to visit it in order to put things 

26o LIFE [CHAP. 

Alcala and did not fail to meet with a great deal of opposition 
or escape severe trials. I know that all the observances of the 
religious life are practised in it, according to this our primitive 
Rule. May the Lord be pleased to direct it all to His glory and 
praise and to that of the glorious Virgin Mary, whose habit 
we wear. Amen. 

I expect Your Reverence 1 will be getting impatient at the long 
account which I have given of this convent, though it is short 
enough when you remember how many trials the Lord has sent 
us and what marvellous things He has wrought. There are many 
witnesses who will be able to swear to these, so I beg Your 
Reverence, for the love of God, if you think it well to tear up 
everything else that is written here, to preserve what concerns 
this convent. Then, after my death, it should be given to the 
sisters here, for it will be a great encouragement in the service 
of God to those who come after us and will prevent this work that 
has been begun from falling to the ground and help it to prosper 
continually when it is seen what importance His Majesty must 
have attached to this house since He founded it through a creature 
as wicked and as base as I. And I believe myself that, as the Lord 
has been pleased to grant us such special help in its foundation, 
anyone will do great harm and be heavily punished by God who 
attempts to mitigate the perfection of the Rule which the Lord 
has initiated and encouraged here, and which works so smoothly. 
For it is quite evidently easy to endure and pleasant to carry 
out, and there is every facility for its being kept permanently 
by those who desire to rejoice in Christ their Spouse in solitude. 
This will always be the aim of our nuns to be alone with Him 
only. There will not be more than thirteen of them, 2 for, after 
asking the opinions of many people, I have decided that that 
number is best, and I have seen by experience that, if we are to 
preserve the spirituality which we now possess, and to live on alms, 
yet not to beg from anyone, it is impossible for us to admit more. 
May they always give the greatest credence to one who, with 
much labour and through the prayers of many, contrived to 
arrange things for the best. That this is the way which suits us 
will be evident from the great joy and gladness and the few trials 
which we have had during the years we have been in this house, 
as well as from our health, which has been far better than before. 

straight, which she did by giving the nuns the same Constitution as that of St. Joseph's. 
This Alcald convent, however, never came under the jurisdiction of the Order, 
which in 1599 founded a convent of its own there, known as Corpus Christi. 

1 P. Garcia de Toledo. 

1 Later St. Teresa increased this number, as well as admitting lay sisters, of whom 
there were none at St. Joseph's when it was founded. To-day there are twenty-one 
nuns in each convent, eighteen of whom are choir-nuns. 


If anyone thinks the Rule a harsh one, let her blame her own lack 
of spirituality and not our observance; for it can be borne quite 
easily by people who are not in the least robust, but really delicate, 
if they have sufficient spirituality. Let those who have not go to 
some other convent, where they will find salvation and yet Jive 
according to the spirituality which they have. 


Describes the effects produced upon her after the Lord had granted her any 
favour. Adds much sound teaching. Says how we must strive 
in order to attain one degree more of glory and esteem it highly 
and how for no trial must we renounce blessings which are everlasting. 

It is painful to me to say more of the favours which the Lord 
has bestowed on me than I have said already; even these are so 
numerous that it is hard for anyone to believe they can have been 
granted to one as wicked as I. But in obedience to the Lord, 
Who has commanded me to do so, and to Your Reverences, 1 
I shall speak of some of these things to His glory. May it please 
His Majesty that some ,soul shall be profited by seeing that the 
Lord has thus been pleased to help so wretched a creature how 
much more will He help one who has served Him truly! Let 
us all strive to please His Majesty, since even in this life He gives 
such pledges as these. 

First, it must be understood that, in these favours which God 
grants the soul, there are greater and lesser degrees of glory. For 
so far do the glory and pleasure and happiness of some visions 
exceed those of others that I am amazed at the diversity in fruition 
which is possible, even in this life. There can be so much difference 
between the consolations and favours given by God in a vision 
or in a rapture that it seems impossible there can be anything 
more in this life to be desired,? and so the soul does not desire, 
and would never ask for, any greater happiness. At the same time, 
now that the Lord has explained to me that there is a difference 
in Heaven between the fruition that can be experienced by one 
soul and by another, and shown me how great that difference is, 
I see clearly that here too, when the Lord is pleased so to give, 
there is no measure in His giving. I wish that the same were true 

1 PP. Pedro Ibdnez and Garcia de Toledo. 

a ["More to be desired than the highest of them, which are so incomparably greater 
than the lowest" is the meaning. As it stands, the sentence would seem to mean 
that the difference is between consolations and favours or between visions and rap- 
tures, but a as so often in St. Teresa, the true sense is indicated by the context.] 

262 LIFE [CHAP- 

of the service I render His Majesty, and that I employed my 
whole life and strength and health in this; I would have no 
fault of mine deprive me of the smallest degree of fruition. I 
can say, then, that if I were asked whether I should prefer to 
endure all the trials in the world until the world itself ends, 
and afterwards to gain a little more glory, or to have no trials and 
attain to one degree less of glory, I should answer that I would 
most gladly accept all the trials in exchange for a little more 
fruition in the understanding of the wonders of God, for I see 
that he who understands Him best loves and praises Him best. 

I do not mean that I should not be pleased and think myself 
very happy to be in Heaven, even if I were in the lowest place 
there; for, as one who had merited suhc a place in hell, I should 
be receiving a great favour from the Lord if He were to grant me 
a place in Heaven at all: may it please His Majesty to bring me 
there and not to regard my grievous sins. What I mean is that, if 
the choice were mine, and the Lord gave me grace to endure great 
trials, even were it at the greatest cost to myself, I should not 
like to lose anything whatever through my own fault. Wretch 
that I am, who through my many faults had lost everything ! 

It should also be observed that, after every favour in the shape 
of a vision or a revelation which the Lord granted me, my soul 
was left with some great gain after certain visions, with very 
many. After a vision of Christ there remained with me an 
impression of His exceeding great beauty, which I have preserved 
to this very day. And if one single vision sufficed to effect this, 
how much greater would be the power of all those which of His 
favour the Lord has granted me! One very great benefit which 
I received was this. I had a very serious fault, which led me into 
great trouble. It was .that, if I began to realize that a person 
liked me, and I took to him myself, I would grow so fond of him 
that my memory would feel compelled to revert to him and I 
would always be thinking of him; without intentionally giving 
any offence to God, I would delight in seeing him and think 
about him and his good qualities. This was such a harmful thing 
that it was ruining my soul. But when once I had seen the great 
beauty of the Lord, I saw no one who by comparison with Him 
seemed acceptable to me or on whom my thoughts wished to 
dwell. For if I merely turn the eyes of my mind to the image of 
Him which I have within my soul, I find I have such freedom 
th,at from that time forward everything I see appears nauseating 
to me by comparison with the excellences and glories which I 
have seen in this Lord. Nor is there any knowledge or any kind 
of consolation to which I can attach the slightest esteem by 
comparison with that which it causes me, to hear a single word 


coming from that Divine mouth and more wonderful still is it 
when I hear many. And, unless for my sins the Lord allows this 
memory to fade, I consider it impossible for me to be so deeply 
absorbed in anything that I do not regain my freedom when I 
turn once more in thought, even for a moment, to this Lord. fc 
This has happened to me with some of my confessors, for I 
always have a great affection for those who direct my soul, 
looking upon them as so truly in the place of God that I always 
like to follow their advice more than anything else. As I was 
feeling perfectly safe, therefore, I would show myself pleasant to 
them. But they, being God-fearing and God-serving men, were 
afraid that I might in some way become attached to them and 
drawn towards them in a spiritual sense, of course by the 
bonds of affection; so they would treat me quite unpleasantly. 
This happened after I became accustomed to obeying them; 
before that I had had no such affection for them. I used to laugh 
to myself when I saw how mistaken they were. I was not always 
telling them, in so many words, how little attachment I had to 
anybody, though secretly I knew this to be the case, but I would 
reassure them, and, when they got to know me better, they 
learned how much I owed to the Lord for these suspicions 
which they had of me always came at the beginning. Once I 
had seen this Lord, I was so continually in converse with Him that 
my love for Him and trust in Him began to increase greatly. 
I saw that, although God, He was also Man, and is not dismayed 
at the weaknesses of men, for He understands our miserable 
nature, liable as it is to frequent falls, because of man's first sin 
for which He had come to make reparation. Although He is my 
Lord, I can talk to Him as to a Mend, because He is not, I believe, 
like those whom we call lords on earth, all of whose power 1 
rests upon an authority conferred on them by others. Such lords 
have fixed hours for audiences and persons whom they appoint 
for the purpose of speaking with them. If some poor man has 
business with them, he can only get it attended to by employing 
roundabout methods and currying favours and taking a great deal 
of trouble. If his business is with a king, and he is poor and not 
well-born, he cannot approach him directly, but has to find out 
who are his favourites. And you may be sure they will not be 
people who trample the world underfoot; for people who do that 
speak the truth, fear nothing and need fear nothing; they 
are not meant for palaces, for there they cannot do as they are 
wont, but must keep silence about anything they dislike and must 
not dare even to think about it or they will fall from favour, 

1 ["Lords" is senorw, and "power", senorio: there is thus a play upon words, almost 
as though we were to read: "lords of the earth, who lord it by authority."] 

264 LIFE [CHAP. 

O King of glory and Lord of all kings ! Thy kingdom is not 
fenced in by trifles, but is infinite. No third party is required 
'to obtain us an audience of Thee. We have only to look at Thy 
person to see at once that Thou alone deservest to be called 
Lord. Thou revealest Thy majesty; we need no sight of a retinue 
or guard to convince us that Thou art a King. An earthly king 
can scarcely be recognized as such in his own person; for, however 
much he may wish to be so recognized, no one will believe he is a 
king if there is nothing about him to distinguish him from others ; 
his majesty must be seen to be believed. So it is reasonable that 
kings should maintain this artificial authority, for, if they had 
none, nobody would respect them, as their appearance of power 
does not come from themselves and their authority must of 
necessity come from others. O my Lord! O my King! If one 
could but picture Thy majesty ! It is impossible not to see that in 
Thyself Thou art a great Emperor, for to behold Thy majesty 
strikes terror. But my terror is greater, my Lord, when together 
with Thy majesty I behold Thy humility and the love that Thou 
bestowest on such a creature as I. 

We can converse and speak with Thee about anything, just 
as we wish, when we have lost our initial fear and terror at seeing 
Thy majesty and acquired a deeper fear of offending Thee 
but not a fear of punishment, my Lord, for that is of no account 
by comparison with loss of Thee! Here, then, are the benefits 
of this vision, setting aside other important ones which it leaves 
behind in the soul. If the vision is of God, its source will be 
recognizable by its effects, when the soul receives light for, as I 
have often said, the Lord may be pleased for the soul to be in 
darkness and not to see this light, so it is not surprising if one who 
knows herself to be as wicked as I should be afraid. 

Only quite recently it chanced that for a full week I was in 
such a condition that I seemed to have lost all sense of my debt 
to God and was unable to recapture it. I could not remember 
His favours; and my soul had become so stupid and so much 
occupied (I know not with what, or how: it was not that I had bad 
thoughts but that I was incapable of thinking any good ones) 
that I would laugh at myself and find it pleasant to realize how 
low a soul can sink when God is not forever working within it. 
In such a state, the soul sees clearly that it is not without God: 
this is not like the severe trials which I have said I sometimes 
experience. The soul collects wood and does all it can by itself, 
but finds no way of kindling the fire of the love of God. It is 
only by His great mercy that the smoke can be seen, which shows 
that the fire is not altogether dead. Then the Lord comes back 
and kindles it, for the soul is driving itself crazy with blowing on 


the fire and rearranging the wood, yet all its efforts only put out 
the fire more and more. I believe the best thing is for the soul 
to be completely resigned to the fact that of itself it can do nothing, 
and busy itself, as I have already suggested, in other meritorious 
activities, for the Lord may perhaps be depriving it of the power 
to pray, precisely so that it may engage in these other activities 
and learn by experience how little it can do of itself. 

It is true that, while in converse with the Lord to-day, I have 
dared to complain of His Majesty. "How is it, my God/' I have 
said to Him, "that it is not enough for Thee to keep me in this 
miserable life, which I endure for love of Thee, willing to live 
where on every hand there are obstacles to my having fruition 
of Thee? I have to eat, sleep, attend to my business and mix 
with people of every kind and all this I endure for love of Thee. 
Well knowest Thou, my Lord, that this is the sorest torment to 
me. How few are the moments which remain to me for enjoying 
communion with Thee, and even during these moments Thou 
hidest Thyself! How does this agree with Thy mercy? How 
can Thy love for me endure it? Verily, Lord, I believe that, 
if it were possible for me to hide myself from Thee as Thou hidest 
Thyself from me, the love that Thou bearest me is such that Thou 
wouldst not endure it. But Thou art with me and seest me always. 
My Lord, this is not to be borne; consider, I beseech Thee, what 
a wrong is being done to one who so much loves Thee." 

This and other things, as it chanced, I was saying, while 
realizing all the time how merciful was the place in hell assigned 
to me by comparison with the place I deserved. But sometimes 
love makes me foolish, so that I do not know what I am saying, 
and I use all the sense I have and make these complaints and the 
Lord bears with it all. Praised be so good a King! Should we 
be as bold as this in our approach to earthly kings? I am not 
surprised that we should not dare to speak to a king, for it is 
right that he and the lords who act as his representatives should 
be feared, but the world is now in such a condition that our 
lives will have to be longer than they are if we are to learn the 
new customs and details and methods of correct behaviour and yet 
spend any time in the service of God* When I see all that goes on, 
I can only cross myself in dismay. The fact is, when I came here 1 
I did not know how I was going to live; for when we are careless 
and omit to treat people much better than they deserve it is not 
made light of, but considered as a real affront; if, as I said, 
we have been careless, we have to satisfy people that our inten- 
tions were good and please God they may believe us! 

Really, I repeat, I did not know how I was going to live: 

1 I.e., to St. Joseph's. 

266 LIFE [CHAP. 

you could have seen that my poor soul was worn out. It hears 
itself being told always to occupy its thoughts with God and 
to be sure to keep them fixed on Him so that it may escape from 
all kinds of danger. On the other hand, it discovers that it must 
not fail to observe a single point of worldly etiquette, lest it should 
give offence to those who think this etiquette essential to their 
honour. I used to be simply worn out by all this : my attempts 
to satisfy people were never-ending, for, study to please them as I 
would, I was always making mistakes, and, as I say, these are 
never overlooked as being unimportant. And is it the case that 
in religious Orders excuses are made for all such things? It 
might be thought only reasonable that we should be excused 
from these observances. But no; they say that convents should 
be courts and schools of good breeding. Personally, I simply 
cannot understand this. It has occurred to me that some saint 
may have said that they ought to be courts to teach those who want 
to be courtiers of Heaven and that this saying may have been 
wrongly interpreted. But if we are careful, as it is right we should 
be, always to please God and to hate the world, I do not see how 
at the same time we can be so very careful to please those who are 
living in the world, in matters which are so often changing. If 
these things could be learned once and for all, it might be toler- 
able, But even for a matter like the addressing of letters we need 
a University professorship, and lectures would have to be given 
in that art, or whatever it is to be called. For in one case one part 
of the paper has to be left blank, and in another case, another 
part, and the title "Illustrious" has to be given to a man who 
formerly was not even described as "Magnificent". 

I cannot think what we are coming to for I am not yet 
fifty, * and even in my own short life I have seen so many changes 
that I have no idea how to live. What, then, will it be with those 
\vho are now being born and whose Hves are still before them? 
I am really sorry for spiritual people who for certain pious reasons 
are obliged to live in the world : the cross they have to bear is a 
dreadful one. If they could all come to an agreement to remain 
ignorant of these sciences and be willing to be considered so, 
they would escape a great deal of trouble. 

But what nonsense I have begun to write! I was discussing 
the wonders of God and I have descended so far that I am now 
talking about the pettinesses of the world. So, as the Lord has 
granted me the favour of allowing me to renounce the world, I 

1 [Unless St, Teresa were miytaVmi jibout her own age -a by no means uncommon 
phenomenon in Spain- so modem a -writer as Ntinez de Arce (1832-1903) for long 
believed himself to be two years younger than he was these lines must have been 
written before March 28, 1565.] 


will bring this to a close. Let those who toil over the adjustment of 
such trifles settle them to their own satisfaction. And pray God 
that in the life to come, where there are no changes, we may 
not have to pay dearly for them. Amen. 


Describes certain great favours which the Lord bestowed upon her, both 
in showing her certain heavenly secrets and in granting her other 
great visions and revelations which His Majesty was pleased that 
she should experience. Speaks of the effects which these produced 
upon her and of the great profit which they brought to her soul. 

One night, when I was so unwell that I meant to excuse myself 
from mental prayer, I took a rosary, so as to occupy myself 
in vocal prayer, trying not to be recollected in mind, though, 
as I was in an oratory, I was recollected to all outward appear- 
ance. But, when the Lord wills it otherwise, such efforts are of 
little avail. I had been in that condition only a very short time 
when there came to me a spiritual impulse of such vehemence 
that resistance to it was impossible. I thought I was being carried 
up to Heaven: the first persons I saw there were my father and 
mother, and such great things happened in so short a time-* 
no longer than it would take to repeat an Ave Maria that I was 
completely lost to myself, and thought it far too great a favour. 
I was afraid lest it might be an illusion, but, as it did not seem 
to be so, I did not know what to do, for I was very much ashamed 
to go to my confessor about it not, I think, because of any 
humility but for fear he might laugh at me and*say : ** What a Saint 
Paul she is, with her heavenly visions! Quite a Saint Jerome!" 
Because these glorious saints had had visions of this kind, I was 
the more afraid, and did nothing but shed copious tears, for I 
did not think it possible that I had been sharing their experiences. 
In the end, though feeling still worse about it, I went to see my 
confessor, for, however much it troubled me to speak of such 
things, I never dared to keep silence about them, so fearful was I 
of being deceived. When he saw how worried I was about it, 
he comforted me a great deal, and gave me a great many good 
reasons for not being troubled. 

With the progress of time, the Lord continued to show me 
further great secrets: sometimes He does so still. The soul 
may wish to see more than is pictured to it, but there is no way 
in which it may do so, nor is it possible that it should; and so 

268 LIFE [CHAP. 

I never on any occasion saw more than the Lord was pleased to 
show me. What I saw was so great that the smallest part of it was 
sufficient to leave my soul amazed and to do it so much good that 
it esteemed and considered all the things of this life as of little 
worth. I wish I could give a description of at least the smallest 
part of what I learned, but, when I try to discover a way of doing 
so, I find it impossible; for, while the light we see here and that 
other light are both light, there is no comparison between the 
two and the brightness of the sun seems quite dull if compared 
with the other. In short, however skilful the imagination may 
be, it will not succeed in picturing or describing what that light 
is like, nor a single one of those things which I learned from the 
Lord with a joy so sovereign as to be indescribable. For all 
the senses rejoice in a high degree, and with a sweetness impossible 
to describe, for which reason it is better to say no more about it. 

Once, when I had been for more than an hour in this state, 
and the Lord had shown me wonderful things, and it seemed 
as if He were not going to leave me, He said to me: "See, daugh- 
ter, what those who are against Me lose: do not fail to tell them 
of it." Ah, my Lord, how little will my words profit those who 
are blinded by their own actions unless Thy Majesty gives them 
light! Some persons to whom Thou hast given it have profited 
by the knowledge of Thy wonders, but they see them, my Lord, 
as revealed to a wicked and miserable creature like myself, so 
that I think it will be a great thing if there should be anyone who 
believes me. Blessed be Thy name and Thy mercy, for I have 
found that my own soul at least has notably improved. After- 
wards I could have wished that my soul had remained in that 
state for ever and that I had not returned to this life, for I was left 
with a great contempt for everything earthly. It seemed to me 
like dung and I see how base are the occupations of those of us 
who are detained here below. 

It happened on one occasion while I was staying with that lady 
whom I have mentioned, 1 and I was troubled with my heart 
(as I have said, I have suffered with this a great deal, though 
less so of late), that, being an extremely kind person, she had 
some very valuable golden trinkets and stones brought out for me, 
and in particular a set of diamonds, supposed to be of great price, 
thinking that they would cheer me. But I only laughed to myself, 
thinking what a pity it is that people esteem such things, remem- 
bering what the Lord has laid up for us and reflecting how 
impossible it would be for me to set any store by these things, 
even if I tried to make myself do so, unless the Lord were to 
allow me to forget those others. 

1 Dona Luisa de la Gerda. 


The soul that feels like this has great dominion, over itself 
so great that I do not know if it can be understood by anyone 
who does not possess it, for it is a real, natural detachment, 
achieved without labour of our own. It is all effected by God 3 
for, when His Majesty reveals these truths, they are so deeply 
impressed upon our souls as to show us clearly that we could 
not in so short a time acquire them ourselves. I was also left 
with very little fear of death, of which previously I had been very 
much afraid. Now it seems to me very easy for one who serves 
God, for in a moment the soul finds itself freed from this prison 
and at rest. This experience, in which God bears away the spirit 
in these transports and shows it such excellent things, seems to 
me very much like that in which a soul leaves the body; for it 
finds itself in possession of all these good things in a single instant. 
We may leave out of account the pains of the moment of its 
flight, to which no great importance need be attached: to those 
who love God in truth and have put aside the things of this world 
death must come very gently. 

I think, too, that this experience has been of great help to 
me in teaching me where our true home is and in showing me 
that on earth we are but pilgrims; it is a great thing to see what is 
awaiting us there and to know where we are going to live. 
For if a person has to go and settle in another country, it is 
a great help to him in bearing the trials of the journey if he has 
found out that it is a country where he will be able to live in 
complete comfort. It also makes it easy for us to die if we think 
upon heavenly things and try to have our conversation in Heaven. 
This is a great advantage for us: merely to look up towards the 
heavens makes the soul recollected, for, as the Lord has been 
pleased to reveal some part of what is there, the thought dwells 
upon it. It sometimes happens that those with whom I keep 
company, and whose presence comforts me, are those who I 
know live in Heaven: they, it seems to me, are the people who are 
really alive, while those who live on earth are so dead that it 
seems as if there is no one in the whole world who can be a 
companion to me, especially when those vehement impulses 
come upon me. 

Everything I see is like a dream and what I see with my bodily 
eyes is a mockery. What my soul desires is what I have seen with 
the eyes of the soul; and, finding itself so far away -from it all, 
it desires death. In short, this is a very great favour that the Lord 
grants to those on whom He bestows such visions, for by so doing 
He helps them greatly, yet at the same time gives them a heavy 
cross to carry, for all the things they have are powerless to satisfy 
them, but are simply impediments. If the Lord were not some- 


times to allow these visions to be forgotten (though later they 
return to the remembrance) , 1 do not know how one could live. 
Blessed be He and praised for ever and ever! May His Majesty 
grant, by the blood which His Son shed for me, that, seeing He 
has been pleased to give me some understanding of these great 
blessings, and I have in some degree begun to enjoy them, I 
may not share the fate of Lucifer, who by his own fault lost 
everything. For His own sake may He not allow this ; sometimes 
I Tiave no little fear that He will, although, as a general rule, 
the mercy of God gives me assurance, for, as He has delivered 
me from so many sins, He will not let me out of His hand and 
permit me to be lost. I beg Your Reverence to beg this of Him 
for me always. 

The favours I have already mentioned are not, I think, as great 
as one which I shall now describe, for many reasons and because 
of the great blessings which it has bestowed on me, together with 
great fortitude of soul, although each of these favours, considered 
by itself, is so great that there is nothing with which it can be 
compared. 1 

One day it was the vigil of Pentecost I went, after Mass, 
to a very solitary spot, 2 where I used often to say my prayers, and 
began to read about this festival in the Carthusian's Life of 
Christ. * As I read about the signs by which beginners, proficients 
and perfect may know if the Holy Spirit is with them, it seemed 
to me, when I had read about these three states, that by the 
goodness of God, and so far as I could understand. He was 
certainly with me then. For this I praised God and remembered 
a previous occasion when I had read this passage and when I 
lacked much that I now have; this I saw very clearly, and, as I 
became aware how different I am now, I realized what a great 
favour the Lord had granted me. So I began to meditate on 
the place in hell which I deserved for my sins, and I gave great 
praises to God, for so changed was my life that I seemed not to 
recognize my own soul. While I was meditating in this way a 
strong impulse seized me without my realizing why. It seemed 
as if my soul were about to leave the body, because it could no 

1 [Gf. Translator's Preface, p. xx, above.] 

^ a Anxious to make the life of the Reform as similar as possible to that of the primi- 
tive Carmelites, St. Teresa had a number of hermitages made at St. Joseph's, Avila 
and her other foundations. At the time of her Beatification there were four of these 
in the garden of St. Joseph's and one -within the convent itself. To-day, alsOj there 
are four, but in the shape of divisions of a single building. 

8 The Life of Chnst, written in Latin by Ludolph of Saxony, a Carthusian, was 
translated into Spanish by Ambrosio de Montesinos about 1502 under the title Vita 
Christi tartntxano. It is one of the books which St. Teresa recommends to her nuns 
in her Constitutions (Vol. Ill, p. 220, below). It is often referred to as "the Carth- 
usian*' and its two parts as "the first" and "the second Carthusian*' respectively. 


longer contain itself and was incapable of waiting for so great a 
blessing. The impulse was so exceedingly strong that it made 
me quite helpless. It was different, I think, from those which 
I had experienced on other occasions, and I did not know what 
was the matter with my soul, or what it wanted, so changed 
was it. I had to seek some physical support, for so completely 
did my natural strength fail me that I could not even remain 

While in this condition, I saw a dove over my head, very 
different from those we see on earth, for it had not feathers like 
theirs but its wings were made of little shells which emitted a 
great brilliance. It was larger than a dove; I seemed to hear 
the rustling of its wings. It must have been fluttering like this 
for the space of an Ave Maria. But my soul was in such a state 
that, as it became lost to itself, it also lost sight of the dove. My 
spirit was calmed by so gracious a guest, though I think it must 
have been disturbed and alarmed at experiencing this marvellous 
favour; as it began to rejoice in it, however, its fear left it, and with 
its joy came a return of its tranquillity, and it remained in rap- 

The glory of this rapture was surpassingly great; for most 
of the festal season I was so bewildered and stupid that I did not 
know what to do or how I could be capable of receiving so great 
a favour and grace. It was as if I could neither hear nor see, 
so great was my inward joy. From that time forward I became 
conscious of the greatest progress in the highest love of God and 
of a very great strengthening in virtue. May He be blessed and 
praised for ever. Amen. 

On another occasion I saw the same dove over the head of a 
Father of the Order of Saint Dominic, though I thought the rays 
and the brightness of its wings extended much farther. I took 
this to mean that he was to draw souls to God. 

On another occasion I saw Our Lady putting a pure white 
cope on a Presentado of this same Order of whom I have several 
times spoken. 1 She told me that she was giving him that vestment 
because of the service he had rendered her in helping in the 
foundation of this house, and as a sign that from that time forward 
his soul would remain pure and that he would not fall into mortal 
sin. I am sure that this came true, for a few years later he died, 
and both his death and the last years of his life were marked by 
such penitence, and his life and death were so holy, that, as far 
as one can understand, there is no possibility of doubt about it* 
A friar who had been present when he died informed me that, 

1 According to Grecian's notes, both this and the preceding paragraph refer to P. 

272 LIFE [CHAP. 

before passing away, he had told him that Saint Thomas was 
with him. He died with great joy and with a longing to depart 
from this exile. 1 Since then he has several times appeared 
to ine in very great glory and told me a number of things. He 
was such a man of prayer that although, before he died, he was 
so weak that he would have liked to cease praying, he was so 
often in rapture that he could not do so. Shortly before his death, 
he wrote to me to ask what he ought to do; for no sooner had he 
finished saying Mass than he would go for a long time into 
rapture and was quite unable to prevent himself from doing so. In 
the end, God gave him the reward of the many services which 
he had rendered Him during his whole life. 

With regard to the Rector of the Company of Jesus, whom 
I have already mentioned several times, 2 I have had a number 
of visions of the great favours which the Lord was bestowing 
upon him 9 but, lest I should write at too great length, I am not 
setting them down here. It once happened that he was in great 
trouble, having been sorely persecuted and finding himself in 
great distress. One day, when I was hearing Mass, at the eleva- 
tion of theJHost I saw Christ on the Cross. He spoke certain words 
to me, which He told me to repeat to the Rector for his comfort, 
and He added other things to warn him of what was to come and 
to remind him of what He had suffered for him and how he too 
must prepare to suffer. This brought him great comfort and gave 
him courage and everything has since happened as the Lord told 
me it would. 

Concerning the members of the Order to which this Father 
belongs namely, the Company of Jesus 3 and of the entire 
Order itself, I have seen great things. On several occasions I 
saw these Fathers in Heaven with white banners in their hands, 
and, as I say, I have seen other things concerning them which give 
cause for great wonder. Thus I hold this Order in great venera- 
tion, for I have had a great deal to do with its members and I 

1 P. Banez adds in a marginal note. "This Father died Prior of Trianos." The note 
confirms Gracidn's statement just quoted [It also helps to fix the date of the book, 
as P. Ibinez died on February 2, 1565. Taken in conjunction with the reference to 
St Teresa's age (p. 266, above) it seems to give us almost the exact date of the com- 
position of these final chapters.] But cf. p. 3, above. 

2 Graaan and Maria de San Josd assert that P Alvarez is meant, but more probably 
the reference is to P. Caspar de Salazar. 

8 Luis de Leon, in the tditto prirwep s, altered this phrase to read: "Concerning those 
of a certain. Order." A reason suggested for this is that in Chap. XL St. Teresa says 
that she does not name particular Orders, for fear of invidiousness, and that Fray 
Luis thought this to be an oversight. In another place, however, he leaves intact a 
reference to Dominicans and Franciscans and in the next line deletes one to St. 
Ignatius and his Society. The suppressions are more probably attributable to the 
strained relations existing between the Society and, on the one hand, certain religious 
Orders, on the other, the University of Salamanca. The correct reading in this present 
passage was restored by the Discalced Carmelites in their edition of 1627. 


see that their lives are in conformity with what the Lord has 
given me to understand about them. 

One night, when I was at prayer, the Lord began to talk 
to me. He reminded me how wicked my life had been and made 
me feel very much confused and distressed; for, although He 
did not speak severely, His words caused me to be consumed 
with distress and sorrow. A single word of this kind makes a 
person more keenly aware of his advance in self-knowledge than 
do many days spent in meditating upon his own wretchedness, 
for it bears a stamp of truth the reality of which none can deny. 
He pictured to me the earlier movements of my will, showed 
me how vain they had been, and told me that I must prize the 
desire that I now had to fix upon Him a will which had spent 
itself as foolishly as mine had done, and that He would accept 
this desire. On other occasions He told me to remember how I 
used to think it honourable to oppose His honour. On others, 
again, to remember what I owed Him, for even when I was 
dealing Him the cruellest of blows, He was bestowing favours 
upon me. When I am committing any faults and my faults are 
not few His Majesty makes me so conscious of them that I 
feel entirely confused with shame, and so numerous are they that 
this happens often. Sometimes it has chanced that my confessor 
has rebuked me, and, when I have tried to find comfort in prayer, 
I have been soundly rebuked there as well. 

Let me now return to what I was saying. As the Lord began 
to remind me of the wickedness of my past life, and in the midst 
of the tears which I shed at having till then, as I thought, achieved 
nothing^ I wondered if He was about to show me some favour. 
For it is quite u^ual for the Lord to grant me some special favour 
after I have been beside myself with shame, so that I may the 
better realize how far I am from deserving it; I think this must 
be the Lord's doing. Soon after this, my spirit became so com- 
pletely transported that it seemed to have departed almost 
wholly from the body: or, at least, there was no way of telling 
that it was in the body. I saw the most sacred Humanity in 
far greater glory than I had ever seen before. I saw a most clear 
and wonderful representation of it in the bosom of the Father. I 
cannot possibly explain how this happened, but, without seeing 
anything, I seemed to see myself in the presence of the Godhead. 
I was amazed j so much so that I believe several days must have 
gone by before I was completely myself again. I seemed all the 
time to have present with me that Majesty of the Son of God, 
although not in the same way as in the first vision. This I was 
quite well able to understand, but it remained so indelibly stamped 
upon my imagination that for some time, quickly as it passed, I 

274 LIFE [CHAP. 

could not rid myself of it: it is a wonderful comfort to me and it 
also does me a great deal of good. 

I have beheld this same vision on three other occasions: I think 
it is the sublimest vision which the Lord has granted me grace 
to see, and it brings with it the greatest benefits. It appears 
to have a wonderfully purifying effect upon the soul and almost 
entirely destroys the power of our sensual nature. It is a great 
flame, which seems to burn up and annihilate all life's desires; 
for, although glory be to God ! I had no desires for vain things, 
I was clearly shown here how everything was vanity, and how 
vain, how completely vain, are all worldly dignities. This is a 
wonderful way of teaching the soul to lift up its desires in purity 
of truth. It impresses on it a sense of reverence which I cannot 
possibly describe, but which is very different from anything that 
we can acquire on earth. The soul becomes astounded when it 
remembers that it has dared to offend His exceeding great 
Majesty and that there is anyone else who can dare to do the 

I must have spoken several times of these effects produced 
by visions and other experiences of that kind, but, as I have al- 
ready said, there are greater and lesser degrees of profit to be 
extracted from them, and it is this kind of vision that causes the 
greatest profit of all* Whenever I approached the altar to com- 
municate, and remembered that exceeding great Majesty which 
I had seen, and considered that it was He Who was in the Most 
Holy Sacrament and that the Lord was often pleased that I 
should see Him in the Host, my hair would stand on end and I 
would feel completely annihilated. O my Lord! Didst Thou 
not cloak Thy greatness, who would dare to come so often to the 
union of such foulness and wretchedness with such great Majesty? 
Blessed be Thou, Lord* Let the angels and all creatures praise 
Thee, Who measurest things by our weakness, so that, while 
we are rejoicing in Thy sovereign favours, we may not be so much 
affrighted by Thy great power as not to dare, because we are 
weak and miserable creatures, to rejoice in those favours. 

We might have the same experience as a certain peasant 
and this is a thing which I know actually happened. He found 
some treasure, much more valuable than his dull mind was 
capable of grasping; and the mere possession of it gradually 
brought on a melancholy, so that eventually he died of pure 
distress and worry because he had no idea what to do with it. 
If he had not found it all at once, but had been given it by 
degrees, so that he could have lived upon it, he would have been 
happier than when he was poor and it would not have cost him his 


O Wealth of the poor, how wonderfully canst Thou sustain 
souls, revealing Thy great riches to them gradually and not 
permitting them to see them all at once ! Since the time of that 
vision I have never seen such great Majesty, hidden in a thing 
so small as the Host, without marvelling at Thy great wisdom. 
I cannot tell how the Lord gives me courage or strength to 
approach Him; I only know that it is bestowed on me by Him 
Who has granted me, and still grants me, such great favours. I 
could never possibly conceal this or refrain from proclaiming aloud 
such great marvels. What must be the feelings of a wretch like 
myself, weighed down with abominations, who has gone through 
life with so little fear of God, when she finds herself approaching 
this Lord of such majesty, Whose will it is that my soul shall 
see Him? How can I open my mouth, which has uttered so many 
words against this same Lord, to receive that most glorious Body, 
full of purity and compassion? For the soul, knowing that it 
has not served Him, is much more grieved and afflicted by the 
love shining in that face of such great beauty, so kindly and so 
tender, than it is affrighted by the majesty which it sees in 

What, then, must my feelings have been on two occasions 
when I saw the things that I shall now describe? Indeed, my 
Lord and my Glory, I am going to say that in some measure 
these great afflictions experienced by my soul have resembled 
acts performed in Thy service. Ah, I know not what I am saying, 
for I am writing this almost as though I were not myself speaking: 
I find I am troubled, and even somewhat distraught, as I recall 
these things to my memory. If these feelings really came from me, 
my Lord, I might well say that I had done something for Thee, 
but, as there can be no good thoughts unless Thou givest them, 
no thanks for them can be due to me. I, Lord, am the debtor, 
and it is Thou Who hast been offended. 

Once, when I was about to communicate, I saw, with the 
eyes of the soul, -more clearly than ever I could with those of 
the body, two devils of most hideous aspect. Their horns seemed 
to be around the poor priest's throat; and when I saw my Lord, 
with the majesty which I have described, in the hands of such 
a man, in the Host which he was about to give me, I knew for 
a certainty that those hands had offended Him and realized 
that here was a soul in mortal sin. What must it be, my Lord, 
to see that beauty of Thine between two such hideous forms? In 
Thy presence they seemed so cowed and terrified that I think 
they would gladly have fled, hadst Thou allowed them to go. 
This upset me so much that I do not know how I was able to 
communicate, and I was sore afraid, for, I thought, had it been 

sy6 LIFE [CHAP. 

a vision from God, His Majesty would not have allowed me 
to see the evil that was in that soul. Then the Lord Himself 
told me to pray for him and said He had allowed me to see this 
so that I might realize what power there was in the words of 
consecration, and that, however wicked the priest who pro- 
nounces those words may be, God is always present without 
fail. He wanted me also to appreciate His great goodness in 
placing Himself in the hands of that enemy of His, and this 
solely for my good and for the good of all. This showed me 
clearly how much stricter is the obligation laid upon priests 
to be virtuous than upon other people, and what a terrible 
thing it is to take this Most Holy Sacrament unworthily, and 
how complete is the devil's dominion over the soul that is in 
mortal sin. It was of the very greatest help to me and gave me 
the fullest knowledge of what I owe to God. May He be blessed 
for ever and ever. 

On another occasion something else of this kind happened 
to me which gave me a bad fright. I was in a place where a 
certain person had died after leading for many years, as I knew, 
a very bad life. But for two years he had been ill and in some 
respects seemed to have mended his ways. He died without 
making his confession, but in spite of all this I did not myself 
think he would be damned. While his body was being wrapped 
in its shroud, I saw a great many devils taking hold of it and 
apparently playing with it and treating it roughly. I was horrified 
at this: they were dragging it about in turn with large hooks. 
When I saw it being taken to burial with the same honour and 
ceremony that is paid to all dead persons, I kept thinking upon 
the goodness of God Who would not allow that soul to be 
dishonoured but permitted the fact of its having been His 
enemy to be concealed. 

After what I had seen I was half crazy. During the whole of 
the funeral office I saw no more devils; but afterwards, when 
the body was laid in the grave, there was such a crowd of them 
waiting there to take possession of it that I was beside myself 
at the sight and had need of no little courage to hide the fact. 
If they were taking possession like this of the unfortunate body, 
I reflected, what would they do with the soul? Would to God 
that this frightful thing which I saw could be seen by everyone 
who is leading an evil life ! I think it would be a great incentive 
to amendment. All this makes me realize better what I owe 
to God and what He has saved me, from. Until I had talked 
to my confessor about it I was terribly frightened, wondering 
if it were an illusion produced by the devil to dishonour that 
person's soul, though he was not considered to be a very good 


Christian. In any case, illusion or no, the very remembrance 
of it always makes me afraid. 

Now that I have begun to talk of visions about the dead, - 1 
will refer to some matters, in connection with certain souls, 
which the Lord has been pleased to reveal to me. For brevity's 
sake and because they are not necessary for our profit, 
I mean I will describe only a few of them. I was told of the 
death of a former Provincial of ours at the time of his death 
he was Provincial of another province whom I had had to do 
with and had reason to be grateful to for several kindnesses. 1 
He had been a person of many virtues. When I heard of his 
death, I was greatly perturbed, for I was fearful about his 
salvation, as he had been a superior for twenty years this 
always causes me misgivings, for it seems to me a very dangerous 
thing to have the charge of souls. So, greatly distressed, I went 
to an oratory. There I offered on his behalf all the good I had 
done in my whole life, which must have been very little, and 
then I begged the Lord to make up the deficiency for that soul 
with His own merits so as to deliver it from purgatory. 

While I was praying to the Lord for him to the best of my 
ability, he seemed to me to rise up, on my right hand, from 
the depths of the earth, and I saw him ascend to Heaven with 
the greatest joy. He had actually been very old, but, as I saw 
him then, he seemed to be about thirty, or even less, and his 
face was bright and shining. This vision passed very quicklyj 
but I was so wonderfully comforted that I could never again 
grieve about his death, although I found people greatly dis- 
tressed by it, for he was very much loved. So greatly was my 
soul comforted that nothing troubled me and I could not doubt 
that this was a genuine vision I mean, that it was no illusion. 
He had not been dead more than a fortnight at the time; none 
the less, I did not cease trying to get people to commend him 
to God and to do so myself, except that I could not pray with 
the same fervour as if I had not seen this vision; for, once the 
Lord had revealed him to me in that way, I could not help 
feeling that to want to commend him to His Majesty was like 
giving alms to a rich man. I heard later about the kind of death 
which the Lord granted him for he died a long way from here. 
It was one which caused me great edification; he was in such 
complete possession of his faculties when he died, and so repentant 
and humble, that everyone was astounded. 

A nun who had been a great servant of God had died in our 

1 This could not be P. Salazar, who was still alive when the book was completed. It 
may be P. Gregorio Fernandez (p. 2250, above), whom we know to have been Prior of 
Avila in 1541 and Provincialjm 1551-3 and 1559-61. 

278 LIFE [CHAP. 

house 1 , and rather more than a day and a half later there occurred 
the following incident. The office for the departed was being 
said for her in choir; a nun was reading the lesson; and I was 
standing there to assist her with the versicle. Half way through 
the lesson I saw the dead sister: her soul seemed to be rising 
on my right hand, as in the preceding vision, and to be going 
up to Heaven. This was not an imaginary vision, as the last 
had been, but was like the others to which I have referred 
already. There is no more reason for doubting it, however, 
than for doubting visions which are seen. 

Another nun who died in this same house of mine was about 
eighteen to twenty years old. She had always had poor health; 
and she served God well and was fond of choir and very virtuous. 
I certainly thought she would not have to go to purgatory, 
for not only had she suffered much from illness but she had 
superabundant merits. About four hours after her death, while 
the Hours were being said before she was buried, I perceived 
her in the same place, ascending to Heaven, 

Once I was in a College of the Company of Jesus, suffering 
severely in soul and body, as I have said I sometimes used to, 
and still do, to such an extent that I was hardly capable of 
thinking a single good thought. On that night a brother of 
that house of die Company had died 2 ; and, while I was com- 
mending him to God as well as I was able, and hearing a Mass 
which was being said for him by another Father of the Company, 
I became deeply recollected and saw him ascending to Heaven 
in great glory, and the Lord ascending with him. I under- 
stood that it was by a special favour that His Majesty bore him 

Another friar of our Order -a very good friar was extremely 
ill s ; and while I was at Mass I became recollected and saw 
that he was dead and was ascending into Heaven without passing 
through purgatory. He had died, as I afterwards heard, at the 
very hour at which I saw him, I was amazed that he had not 
gone to purgatory. I learned that, as he had been a friar who 
had faithfully observed his Rule, the Bulls of the Order had 
been of avail to save him from going there. I do not know 
why I was allowed to learn this: I think it must have been to 
teach me that being a friar does not consist in a habit I mean, 

1 This must refer to the Incarnation, for 9 when these lines were written, all the 
nuns of St Joseph's were still living. There are independent testimonies to this 

'This was Alonso de Henao, who had come from the Jesuit College at Alcala and 
died on April u, 1557. 

* "Fray Matte," says Grecian's note. His full name was Diego (de San) Matfas; 
for some tone he was confessor at the Incarnation. 


in the wearing of the habit and that this does not in itself 
imply the state of greatest perfection, which is that of a frian 

I will say no more of these matters, for, as I have said, it is 
unnecessary for me to do so, though the Lord has granted me 
the favour of seeing a great many such things. But from none 
of the visions that I have seen have I ever gathered that any 
soul has escaped purgatory save the souls of this Father, of the 
saintly Fray Peter of Alcantara and of the Dominican Father 
whom I have mentioned, 1 The Lord has been pleased that I 
should see the degrees of glory to which some persons have 
been raised and has shown them to me in the places which have 
been assigned to them. There is a great difference between some 
of these places and others. 


Continues the same subject and tells of the* great favours which the Lord 
has shown her. Describes His promises to her on behalf of persons 
for whom she might pray to Him. Tells of some outstanding res- 
pects in which His Majesty has granted her this favour. 

I was once earnestly importuning the Lord to give sight to 
a person to whom I was under a certain obligation and who 
was almost entirely blind; I was very sorry for him and feared 
that the Lord would not hear me because of my sins. He appeared 
to me as on former occasions, began by showing me the wound 
in His left hand, and then, with the other hand, drew out a 
laxge nail which was embedded in it, in such a way that in 
drawing out the nail He seemed to me to be tearing the flesh. 
It was clear how very painful this must be and I was sorely 
grieved at it. Then He said to me that surely, if He had borne 
that for me, He would even more readily do whatever I asked 
Him; that He promised me I should never ask Him anything 
which He would not grant; that He knew I should never ask 
anything that did not tend to His glory; and that therefore He 
would do what I was now asking of Him. I must remember, 
He added,* that, even in the days when I did not serve Him, 
I had never asked Him for anything which He had not granted 
in a better way than I could have planned; how much more 
readily still would He not do it now that He knew I loved Him? 
Of that I must have no doubt, I do not think a ftJl week had 
passed Before the Lord restored that person's sight. My con- 

*P. Jbifiez. 

s8o LIFE [CHAP. 

fessor heard of it at once. It may not, of course, have been due 
to my prayer; but, as I had seen this vision, I felt certain that 
it was a favour granted to me and I gave His Majesty thanks 
for it. 

On another occasion there was a person 1 very ill with a most 
painful malady, which, as I do not know its exact nature, I 
shall not now describe. His sufferings for two months had been 
intolerable and he was in such torture that he would lacerate 
his own body. My confessor, the Rector I have mentioned, 
who went to see him, was very sorry for him and told me that 
I must certainly pay him a visit and it was possible for me 
to do this, as he was a relative of mine. I went and was moved 
to such pity for him that I began with great importunity to 
beg the Lord to cure him. This showed me clearly the way 
in which, as I firmly believe, He favours me, for, on the very 
next day, my relative was completely free from that pain. 

I was once in the deepest affliction because I learned that a 
person to whom I was under great obligations wanted to do 
something which militated grievously against God and His 
honour and was firmly resolved that he would. I was so worried 
about this that I did not know what means I could employ to 
dissuade him: it seemed, in fact, that there were none, I besought 
God from the bottom of my heart to give me some such means, 
but until I found them I could get no relief from my distress. 
While things were in that position, I went to a very lonely 
hermitage, of which this convent has a number, and which 
contains a representation of Christ bound to the Column, r and 
there I begged Him to grant me this favour. Then I heard a 
very soft voice, speaking to me, as it were, in a whisper. My 
whole body quivered with fear and I tried to catch what the 
voice was saying, but I could not, and very soon it was gone. 
My fear quickly left me, and, when it had passed, I experienced 
a calm, a joy and an inward delight, and it amazed me that 
the mere hearing of a voice with the bodily ears, unaccompanied 
by any understanding of what it said, should have such an 
effect upon the soul. I saw by this that what I was asking of 
God was to be granted me, and, although this had not then 
been done, my distress was as completely removed as if f it had 
been. I told my confessors of it for at that time I had two, 
very learned men and servants of God. 2 

There was someone who I knew had resolved to serve God 
in very truth; for some days he had been engaged in prayer, in 
the course of which His Majesty had granted hjm many favours. 

1 "Her cousin, Pedro Mexia ", according to Gracian. * 

2 PP. Bdflez and Garda de Toledo. 


But certain occasions of sin then presented themselves and, 
instead of withdrawing himself from these occasions of sin, which 
were very perilous, he gave up his prayer. This caused me the 
greatest distress, for he was a person whom I dearly loved and 
to whom I was much indebted. I believe more than a month 
passed during which I did nothing but beg God to turn this soul 
to Himself. One day, when I was at prayer, I saw beside me a 
devil, in a great fury, tearing up some papers which he held 
in his hand. This brought me great comfort, for I thought it 
meant that what I had been praying for was granted me. And 
so it was, for I afterwards learned that this man had made a 
very contrite confession and had so truly turned to God that I 
hope in His Majesty that he will make continual progress. Blessed 
be He for everything! Amen. 

In answer to my supplications Our Lord has frequently 
delivered souls from grave sins, and has led others to greater 
perfection. As to rescuing souls from purgatory and doing other 
such notable things, the favours which He has granted me here 
are so numerous that I should be fatiguing myself, and fatiguing 
the reader too, if I were to describe them. Many more of them 
have concerned the health of the soul than the health of the 
body. This fact has been generally recognized and there have 
been numerous witnesses to it. It used to cause me great 
scruples, for I could not help believing that the Lord was doing 
this because of my prayers apart, of course, from the chief 
reason, which is His pure goodness. But now these favours have 
become so numerous and have been observed by so many people 
that it causes me no distress to believe this. I praise His Majesty 
and I grow ashamed, because I see I am more His debtor than 
ever, and I believe He increases my desires to serve Him and 
revives my love for Him. What astonishes me most has to do 
with favours which the Lord sees are not good for me: even if 
I try to do so, I am unable to beg Him to grant me these; when 
I attempt it, my prayers have very little power or spirituality 
or concentration; and, however much I try to force myself to 
do more, I cannot. Yet, when it comes to other things which 
His Majesty means to grant, I find that I can ask for these often 
and' with/great importunity, and though I may not be specially 
thinking of them they seem to come to my mind. 

There is a great difference between these two ways of praying, 
which I do not know how to explain. When I pray for the first 
kind of favour, I may persist in forcing myself to beg the Lord 
for it, yet, even if it is a thing which touches me nearly, I do 
not feel that I have the same fervpur as in praying for the other 
kind, I am like a person whose tongue is tied: desire to speak 

282 LIFE [CHAP. 

as he may, he cannot, or if he does so he cannot make himself 
-understood. In the other case I am like a person speaking clearly 
and alertly to someone whom he sees to be eagerly listening to 
him. The first type of prayer, we might say, is Uke vocal prayer; 
the other is like contemplation so sublime that the Lord reveals 
Himself, and so we know His Majesty is hearing us and rejoicing 
at what we are asking of Him and delighting to bestow it upon 
us. May He be blessed for ever, Who gives so much when I 
give Him so little. For what can a man accomplish, my Lord, 
who does not wholly abase himself for Thy sake? 1 How far 
oh, how far, how very far! I could say it a thousand times 
am I from doing this! It is because I am not living as I should, 
in view of what I owe Thee, that I cannot desire to live at all, 
though there are other reasons for this also. How many imperfections 
do I find in myself! How feebly do I serve Thee ! Sometimes I 
could really wish I were devoid of sense, for then I should not 
understand how much evil is in me. May He Who is able to 
do so grant me succour! 

While I was in the house of that lady whom I have mentioned. 2 
I had to be careful of my behaviour and constantly bear in mind 
the vanity inseparable from everything in this life, because of 
the high esteem and the great praise which were bestowed on 
me and the numerous things to which, had I looked only to 
myself, I might have become attached. But He Who sees things 
in their true light looked favourably upon me and suffered me 
not to escape out of His hand. 

Speaking of seeing things in their true light, I call to mind the 
great trials which have to be borne in their dealings with others 
by persons "to whom God has given a knowledge of what is 
meant by truth in earthly matters; for on earth, as the Lord 
once said to me, there is so much dissembling. Much that I 
am writing here does not come out of my own head; I have 
been told it by this Heavenly Master of mine; and so, in places 
where I distinctly say "I was told this" or "The Lord told me", 
I am extremely scrupulous about adding or subtracting so much 
as a single syllable. When I do not remember everything exactly, 
then, it must be understood that it comes from me and some 
of the things I say will come from me altogether. Anything 
that is good I do not attribute to myself, for I know there is 
nothing good in me save what the Lord has given me without 
my deserving it. When I say that a thing has "come from 
me", I mean that it was not told me in a revelation. 

* [Aa untranslatable play upon wrcU: the two verbs are "do" (haee) and "undo" 
1 Dona Luisa de la Cerda. 


But, O my God, how is it that even in spiritual matters we 
often try to interpret things in our own way, as if they were 
worldly things, and distort their true meaning? We think we 
can measure our progress by the number of years during which 
we have been practising prayer. We even seem to be trying 
to set a measure to Him Who bestows on us measureless gifts, 
and Who can give more to one person in six months than to 
another in many years. This is something which I have so 
often observed, and in so many people, that I am amazed to 
find we can act so pettily. 

I am quite sure that no one will be deceived in this way for 
long if he has a gift for the discernment of spirits and if the 
Lord has given him true humility: such a person will judge 
these spirits by their fruits and their resolutions and their love, 
and the Lord will give him light to recognize these. What He 
considers here is not the years which people have spent 
in prayer but the extent to which their souls have advanced 
and made progress; for one soul can attain as much in six months 
as another in twenty years, since, as I say, the Lord gives to 
whom He wills and also to him who is best prepared to receive. 
I find at present that among those coining to this convent are 
a number of girls, quite young in years. 1 God touches their 
hearts and gives them a little light and love I mean, during 
some short period in which He has granted them consolation 
in prayer. They have not been expecting this and they put 
aside every other consideration, forgetting even their meals, and 
shut themselves up for good in a convent that has no money, 
like people who make no account of their lives for the sake 
of Hun Who they know loves them. They give up everything; 
they have no wish to follow their own desires; and it never occurs 
to them that they may grow discontented in a place so circum- 
scribed and so strictly enclosed. They offer themselves wholly, 
as a sacrifice, to God. 

How glad I am to admit that they are better than I and how 
ashamed of myself I ought to be in God's presence! For what 
His Majesty has not consummated in me during the many 
years that have elapsed since I began to pray and He began 
to grant me favours, He consummates in them in three months 
sometimes even in three days though, while amply rewarding 
them, His Majesty gives them far fewer favours than He gives 
me, They have most certainly no cause to be dissatisfied with 
what they have done for Him, 

1 St. Teresa may be thinking of Francisco de Cepeda's daughter, who professed 
on October i, 1564, as Isabel de San Pablo, at the age of seventeen. Three other 
young girls Maria Bautista, Maria de San Jer6nimo ana Isabel de Santo Domingo 
took the habit in 1563-4. 

284 LIFE [CHAP, 

For this reason I should like those of us who have been pro- 
fessed for many years, as well as others who have spent long 
years in the practice of prayer, to retrace that period in their 
memories. I have no desire, however, to distress those who in 
a short time have made more progress than ourselves by making 
them turn back and go at our own pace, or to make those who, 
thanks to the favours given them by God, are soaring like eagles 
move like hens with their feet tied. Let us rather fix our eyes 
on His Majesty, and, if we see that these souls are humble, 
give them the reins; the Lord, who is showing them so many 
favours, will not allow them to fling themselves down a preci- 
pice. They themselves put their trust in God and their trust 
makes the truth which they know through faith of avail to them. 
Shall not we, then, trust them too, instead of trying to measure 
them by our own standards, which are determined by the petti- 
ness of our spirits? That we must never do: if we cannot 
produce fruits and resolutions equal to theirs, which cannot be 
properly understood except by experience, let us humble our- 
selves and not condemn them. For, by our apparent regard 
for their profit, we shall be impeding our own, as well as losing 
this opportunity, sent us by the Lord, of humbling ourselves 
and understanding our own faults; and we shall fail to realize 
how much more detached and how much nearer to God these 
souls must be than our own since His Majesty is drawing so 
near to them. 

My only intention here and I do not wish to suggest that 
I have any other is to explain why I value prayer which has 
lasted for only a short time and yet is producing fruits so notable 
and so quickly apparent; for we cannot resolve to leave every- 
thing, in order to please God, without great potency of love. 
I prefer this to prayer which has continued for many years, 
but which, neither first nor last, produces any more resolutions 
to do things for God than a few of no weight or bulk, like grains 
of salt, which a bird might carry in its beak, and which we 
cannot consider as fruits of prayer or signs of great mortification. 
Sometimes we attribute importance to things we do for the Lord 
which, however numerous they may be, cannot fairly be so 
considered* I am like that myself and I forget His favours at 
every moment. I do not say that His Majesty will not value 
the services I have rendered Him, since He is so gracious, but 
I have no wish to set store by them myself, or even to notice 
it when I do them, since they are nothing. Forgive me, then, 
my Lord, and blame me not if I try to take comfort from any- 
thing I do, since I am of no real service to Thee: if I served 
Thee in great matters, I should set no store by these nothing- 


nesses. Blessed are they who serve Thee by doing great deeds. 
If I could accomplish anything by merely envying them and 
desiring to imitate them I should not be backward in pleasing 
Thee. But I am of no worth, my Lord. Do Thou put worth 
into what I do, since Thou hast such love for me. 

One day, after I had obtained a Brief from Rome empowering 
me to found this convent without providing any revenue for 
it, 1 and the whole business, which I think really cost me some 
trouble, had been brought to a conclusion, I was feeling glad 
that it had been accomplished in this way and thinking over 
the trials which it had cost me, and praising the Lord for having 
been pleased to make some use of me. Then I began to think 
of the things which I had gone through. And it is a fact that 
in every action of mine which I thought had been of some value 
I found any number of faults and imperfections. In some of 
them, too, I discovered signs of faint-heartedness, and in many 
of them a lack of faith. I can see now that all the Lord told 
me would happen with regard to this house has been accom- 
plished, but previously I had never been able to bring myself 
resolutely to believe that it would be so, and yet I could not 
doubt that it would either. I cannot explain this. But the position 
is that while, on the one hand, it seemed to me impossible, on 
the other I could not doubt it I mean, I could not believe 
that it would not turn out as the Lord had said. Eventually 
I found that He, on His side, had done all the good things, and 
I had done all the bad things, and so I stopped thinking about 
it; and I have no further desire to remember it lest I should 
recall to mind all my faults. Blessed be He Who, when such is 
His will, brings good out of them all! Amen. 

As I say, then, it is dangerous to keep counting the years 
during which we have practised prayer, for, even though we 
may do so with humility, it is a habit which seems to leave us 
with a: feeling that we have won some merit by serving God. 
I do not mean that our service is devoid of merit or that it will 
not be well rewarded; but any spiritual person who thinks that 
the mere number of years he has practised prayer has earned 
him these spiritual consolations will, I am certain., fail to reach 
the summit of spirituality. Is it not enough that God has 
thought him worthy to be taken by His hand and kept from 
the offences which he used to commit before he practised prayer? 
Must he sue God, as we say, for his money's worth? This does 
not seem to me very deep humility; I should rather call it pre- 

1 This Brief was dated July 17, 1565. [If it took as long as its predecessor (p. 248, 
n. i, above) to reach AvUa, these lines cannot have been written before the very end 
of December 1565. But it may, of course, have come more quickly. Gf. p. 4, above.] 

286 LIFE [CHAP. 

sumption. My own humility is little enough, yet I do not think 
I have ever dared to do such a thing. It may be, however, that 
I have never asked because I have never served Him; if I had, 
perhaps I should have been more anxious than anyone else for 
the Lord to recompense me. 

I do not mean that, if a soul has been humble in its prayer, 
it does not make progress, or that God will not grant us progress: 
what I mean is that we should forget the number of years we 
have served Him, for the sum total of all we can do is worthless 
by comparison with a single drop of the blood which the Lord 
shed for us. And if, the more we serve Him, the more deeply 
we fall into His debt, what is it we are asking, since, when we 
pay a farthing of our debt, He gives us back a thousand ducats? 
For the love of God, let us leave all this to Him to judge, for 
judgment is His. Comparisons of this kind are always bad, 
even in earthly matters: what, then, will they be in questions 
of which only God has knowledge? And this His Majesty clearly 
showed when He gave the same payment to the last workers 
as to the first. 1 

It has taken me such a long time to write all this (the last 
three sheets have taken as many days, for, as I have said, I 
have had, and still have, little opportunity for writing) that I 
had forgotten what I had begun to describe namely, the 
following vision. While I was at prayer, I saw myself in a great 
field, all alone, and around me there was such a multitude of 
all kinds of people that I was completely surrounded by them. 
They all seemed to have weapons in their hands for the purpose 
of attacking me: some had lances; others, swords; others, daggers; 
and others, very long rapiers. Well, I could not get away in 
any direction without incurring mortal peril, and I was quite 
alone there, without anyone on my side. I was in great distress 
of spirit, and had no idea what I should do, when I raised my 
eyes to Heaven, and saw Christ, not in Heaven, but in the air 
high above me, holding out His hand to me and encouraging 
me in such a way that I no longer feared all the other people, 
who, try as they might, could do me no harm. 

This vision will seem meaningless, but it has since brought me 
the greatest profit, for its meaning was explained to me, and soon 
afterwards I found myself attacked, in almost exactly that way, 
whereupon I realized that the vision was a picture of the world, 
the whole of which seems to take up arms in an offensive against 
the poor soul. Leaving out of account those who are not great 
servants of the Lord, and honours and possessions and pleasures 
and other things of that kind, it is clear that, when the soul is not 

1 St, Matthew xx, 10. 


on the look-out, it will find itself ensnared, or at least all these 
will strive their utmost to ensnare it friends, relatives, and, what 
amazes me most, very good people. By all these I found myself 
oppressed : they thought they were doing right and I did not know 
how to stand up for myself or what to do. 

Oh, God help me ! If I were to describe the different kinds of 
trial which I had to bear at this time, on top of the trials I have 
already mentioned, what a warning it would be to people that 
they should hate everything worldly altogether! Of all the 
persecutions I have suffered, this, I think, has been the worst. 
I mean that I found myself sorely oppressed on every side and 
could get relief only by raising my eyes to Heaven and calling 
upon God. I kept clearly in mind what I had seen in this vision. 
It was of great help to me in teaching me not to put much trust in 
anyone, for there is none who never changes save God. In these 
sore trials the Lord always sent me some person coming from Him 
who would lend me a hand, exactly as He had shown me that He 
would, and had revealed it to me in this vision, so that J had no 
need to cling to anything but pleasing the Lord. This has served 
to sustain the little virtue that I had in desiring to serve Thee. 
Blessed be Thou for ever! 

Once, when I was very restless and upset, unable to recollect 
myself, battling and striving, turning all the time in thought 
to things that were not perfect, and imagining I was not as de- 
tached as I used to be, I was afraid, seeing how wicked I was, 
that the favours which the Lord had granted me might be illusions. 
In short, my soul was in great darkness. While I was distressed 
in this way, the Lord began to speak to me and told me not to be 
troubled : the state in which I found myself would show me how 
miserable I should be if He withdrew from me; while we lived 
in this flesh we were never safe. I was shown how well our time 
is spent in warring and struggling for such a prize and it seemed 
to me that the Lord was sorry for those of us who live in the world. 
But, He added, I was not to think myself forgotten, for He would' 
never leave me, though I myself must do all that lay in my power. 
This the Lord said to me compassionately and tenderly, as well as 
other things in which He was very gracious to me and which there 
is no need to repeat. 

Often His Majesty says to me, as a sign of His great love : "Now 
thou art Mine and I am thine/' There are some words which 
I am in the habit of repeating to myself and I believe I mean 
what I say. They are: "What do I care about myself, Lord, or 
about anything but Thee?" When I remember what I am, these 
words and signs of love cause me the very greatest confusion; for, 
as I believe I have said on other occasions and as I sometimes 

288 LIFE [CHAP. 

say now to my confessor, I think moie courage is needed for 
receiving these favours than for suffering the sorest trials. When 
they come, I almost forget the good I have done, my reason 
ceases to function and I can do nothing but picture to myself 
my own wickedness : this, too, I sometimes think, is supernatural. 

At times there come to me yearnings for Communion so 
vehement that I doubt if I could put them into words. One 
morning it happened to be raining so heavily that I thought I 
could not leave the house. But, once I had started, I was so much 
carried away by my desire that, even if the raindrops had been 
spears levelled at my breast, I think I should have gone on through 
them how much less did I trouble about drops of water ! When 
I reached the church, I fell into a deep rapture. I thought I saw, 
not a door into the heavens, as I have seen on other occasions, 
but the heavens wide open. There was revealed to me the 
throne which, as I told Your Reverence, I have seen at other 
times, and above it another throne, on which (I did not see this, 
but learned it in a way I cannot explain) was the Godhead. The 
throne seemed to me to be held up by some beasts; I think I have 
heard something about these animals I wondered if they were 
the Evangelists. l But I could not see what the throne was like, 
or Who was on it only a great multitude of angels, whom I 
thought of incomparably greater beauty than those I have seen 
in Heaven. I wondered if they were seraphim or cherubim, for 
they were very different in their glory and they seemed to be all 
on fire. There is a great deal of difference between angels, as I 
have said, and the glory which I felt within me at that time 
cannot be expressed in writing, or even in speech, nor can it be 
imagined by anyone who has not experienced it. I felt that all the 
things that can be desired were there at one and the same time, 
yet I saw nothing. They told me I do not know who that all I 
could do was to understand that I was incapable of understanding 
anything, and to consider everything else as nothing at all by 
comparison with that. Afterwards my soul was dismayed to find 
that there was any created thing in which it could rest, still more 
that I could come to have affection for any, for everything else 
seemed to me a mere ant-hill 

I assisted at Mass and communicated. I do not know how 
I did so. I thought I had been there only a very short time and 
I was astounded when the clock struck and I found that I had 
been in that state of rapture and bliss for two hours. Afterwards 
I was amazed at having experienced this fire, which seems to 
proceed from on high, and from the true love of God, for, however 
much I desire and strive and am consumed with the effort to 

1 Apocalypse iv, 6-8. 


attain it it is only when His Majesty so pleases, as I have said on 
other occasions, that I am able to obtain so much as a single 
spark. It seems to consume the old man, with his faults, his luke- 
warmness and his misery; it is like the phoenix, from the ashes 
of which, after it has been burned (or so I have read), comes 
forth another. Even so is the soul transformed into another, 
with its fresh desires and its great fortitude. It seems not to be 
the same as before, but begins to walk in the way of the Lord 
with a new purity. When I besought His Majesty that this might 
be so with me and that I might begin to serve Him anew, He said 
to me: "The comparison thou hast made is a good one: see thou 
forget it not, that thou mayest ever strive to amend/' 

Once when I was struggling with this same doubt that I des- 
cribed just now, as to whether these visions were of God or no, 
the Lord appeared to me and exclaimed sternly: "Oh, children 
of men, how long will ye be hard of heart?" I was to examine 
myself thoroughly, He added, on one matter: Had I made a full 
surrender of myself to Him or no? If I had, and was wholly His, 
I must have confidence that He would not allow me to be lost. 
I felt greatly troubled at that exclamation of His. So, very 
tenderly and consolingly, He told me again not to be troubled, 
for He knew well that I would not knowingly fail to devote my- 
self wholly to His service; and He promised that all I desired 
should be performed. And in fact what I was then beseeching 
of Him was granted me. He bade me, too, consider the love for 
Him which was increasing daily within me, and I should then see 
that this experience of mine was not of the devil. He told me not 
to suppose that God could allow the devil to have so much to do 
with His servants' souls as to be able to give them the clearness 
of mind and the quiet that I was experiencing. He gave me to 
understand that, when so many persons, and such persons, had 
told me that the visions came from God, I should be doing wrong 
not to believe them. 

Once, when I was reciting the psalm Quicunque uult, I was 
shown so clearly how it was possible for there to be one God 
alone and Three Persons that it caused me both amazement and 
much comfort. It was of the greatest help to me in teaching me 
to know more of the greatness of God and of His marvels, and 
when I think of the Most Holy Trinity, or hear It spoken of 5 
I seem to understand how there can be such a mystery and it is a 
great joy to me. 

Once, on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, Queen of 
the Angels, the Lord was pleased to grant me the following 
favour: in a rapture there was pictured to me her ascent into 
Heaven and the joy and solemnity with which she was received 

2go LIFE [CHAP. 

and the place where she now is. To explain how this happened 
would be impossible for me. Exceeding great was the glory which 
Billed my spirit when it saw such glory. The fruits of the vision 
were wonderful and I was left with a great desire to serve Our 
Lady, because of her surpassing merits. 

I was once in a college of the Company of Jesus 1 when the 
brethren of that house were communicating, and I saw a very 
rich canopy above their heads: this I saw twice. When other 
people were communicating I did not see it. 


Continues the same subject and tells of the great favours which the Lord has 
granted her. From some of these may be obtained most excellent 
teaching and, next to obedience, her principal motive in writing has 
been, as she has said, to convey this instruction and to describe such 
favours as are for the profit of souls. With this chapter the narrative 
of her life which she has wntten comes to an end. May it be to the 
glory of the Lord. Amen. 

Once, when I was in prayer, 1 felt within myself such great joy 
that, being unworthy of such a blessing, I began to think how 
much more I deserved to be in the place which I had seen pre- 
pared for me in hell; for, as I have said, I never forget the vision 
which I once had of myself there. As I meditated in this way, 
my soul began to be more vehemently enkindled and there came 
to me a spiritual transport of a kind which I cannot describe. My 
spirit seemed to be plunged into that Majesty of which I have 
been conscious on other occasions, and to be filled with It. In 
this Majesty I was given to understand a truth which is the 
fulfilment of all truths, yet I cannot tell how, for I saw nothing. 
Someone said to me I could not see who, but I was quite clear 
that it was the Truth Itself: "This that I am doing for thee is no 
small thing, but one of the things for which thou art greatly 
indebted to Me; for all the harm which comes to the world is due 
to a failure to know the truths of Scripture in the clarity of their 
truth, of which not a tittle shall fail." 2 I thought that I had 
always believed this and that all the faithful believed it. Then 
He said to me: "Ah, daughter, how few are they who love Me 
in truth! If people loved Me, I should not hide my secrets from 
them. Knowest thou what it is to love Me in truth? It is to realize 
that everything which is not pleasing to Me is a lie. Thou dost 
1 The College of St. Giles, Avila. * Gf St. Matthew v, 18. 

XL] LIFE 291 

not yet realize this, but thou shalt come to see it clearly in the 
profit it will bring to thy soul/ 5 

And, praised be the Lord, I have indeed come to see it: since 
that time I have looked upon all that I do not see being directed 
to the service of God as vanity and lies. I could not explain how 
it is that I realize this or say how much I pity those whom I see 
living in darkness with respect to this truth. From this, too, I 
have derived other advantages which I shall here describe and 
many others which I cannot. On the occasion referred to, the 
Lord said one special thing which has been of the greatest help to 
me. I do not know how this happened, for I saw nothing, but, 
in a way which I cannot explain, I acquired an extreme fortitude 
so that I became most firmly resolved to carry out with all my 
might the very smallest thing contained in the Divine Scripture. 
I believe that there is no obstacle that could present itself to me 
which I could not overcome. 

From this Divine Truth, 1 which was presented to me without 
my knowing what it was or how it came, there remained imprinted 
upon me one truth in particular. It gives me a fresh reverence for 
God, by granting me a knowledge of His majesty and power in a 
way which it is impossible to describe; but I can at least under- 
stand that it is a great thing. It gave me a very great desire to 
speak only of things which are very true and which go far beyond 
any that are treated of in the world, and thus living in the world 
began to cause me deep distress. 2 It left me filled with a great 
tenderness, consoled and humbled. I thought, without under- 
standing how, that the Lord had now given me a great deal; 
I had not the least misgiving lest it should be an illusion. I saw 
nothing, but I understood what a great blessing it is to set no store 
by anything that will not bring us nearer to God. Thus I under- 
stood what it is for a soul to be walking in truth in the presence 
of Truth Itself. And what I understood comes to this : the Lord 
showed me that He is Truth Itself, 

All that I have been saying I learned, sometimes by means of 
locutions, and sometimes without their instrumentality and yet 
I grasped these latter things more clearly than others which, were 
told me in words. About this Truth I learned the profoundest 
truths and more of them than if I had been taught them by many 
learned men. I do not think learned men could ever have im- 
pressed upon me so strongly or have shown me so clearly the vanity 
of this world. This truth which I am referring to and which was 

1 [In this and the next paragraph I follow P. Silvcrio in the use of capitals or lower- 
case letters for foe word "truth".] 

2 [The numerous repetitions in this and the preceding sentences will be noted. 
Of. Translator's Preface, p. xx, above] 

292 LIFE [CHAP. 

taught me is truth in itself, and is without beginning or end, and 
upon this truth all other truths depend, just as all other loves 
depend upon this love and all other greatnesses upon this great- 
ness. This is an obscure way of putting the clear truth which the 
Lord was pleased should be revealed to me. And what the might 
of this Majesty must be when in so short a time it brings the soul 
such great gain and leaves such things as this imprinted upon it ! 
Oh, my Majesty and Greatness! What art Thou doing, my 
Lord Almighty? Consider to whom Thou art granting such 
sovereign mercies. Dost Thou not remember that this soul has 
been an abyss of lies and an ocean of vanities and all through my 
own fault? Thou hadst given me a nature which abhorred lying, 
yet in many things I allowed myself to deal in lies. How, my God, 
can it be thought fitting or tolerable for such great favours to be 
granted to one who has deserved so ill of Thee? 

On one occasion, when I was reciting the Hours with the 
community, my soul suddenly became recollected and seemed to 
me to become bright all over like a mirror: no part of it back, 
sides, top or bottom but was completely bright, and in the centre 
of it was a picture of Christ Our Lord as I generally see Him. 
I seemed to see Him in every part of my soul as clearly as in a 
mirror, and this mirror I cannot explain how was wholly 
sculptured in the same Lord by a most loving communication 
which I shall never be able to describe. This, I know, was a vision 
which, whenever I recall it, and especially after Communion, 
is always of great profit to me. It was explained to me that, when 
a soul is in mortal sin, this mirror is covered with a thick mist 
and remains darkened so that the Lord cannot be pictured or seen 
in it, though He is always present with us and gives us our being; 
with heretics it is as if the mirror were broken, which is much 
worse than being dimmed. Seeing this is very different from 
describing it, for it cannot be properly explained. But it has 
helped me a great deal and has also caused me deep regrets at the 
many occasions when, through my faults, my soul has become 
darkened and so I have been unable to see the Lord. 

This vision seems to me a very beneficial one for recollected 
persons, for it teaches them to think of the Lord as being in the 
very innermost part of their soul. This is a meditation which 
has a lasting effect, and, as I have said on other occasions, is 
much more fruitful than thinking of Him as outside us, as certain 
books do which treat of prayer, telling us where we are to seek God. 
This is particularly well put by the glorious Saint Augustine, 
who says that neither in market-places 1 nor in pleasures nor 
wheresoever else he sought Him did he find Him as he did within 

^Sp., plazas^ squares, public places: Lc., in intercourse with men.] 

XL] LIFE 293 

himself. 1 It is quite clear that this is the best way: we need not 
go to Heaven, nor any farther than to our own selves, for to do 
that is to trouble the spirit and distract the soul, without producing 
any great fruit. 

There is one thing which happens in a deep rapture and of 
which I want to give warning here: when the period has passed 
during which the soul is in union and its faculties are wholly 
absorbed and this period, as I have said, is short the soul will 
still be recollected, and be unable, even in outward things, to return 
to itself; two of the faculties memory and understanding will be 
quite bewildered, and almost in a state of frenzy. This, as I say, 
sometimes happens, especially at the beginning. It may, I imagine, 
be a result of the inability of our natural weakness to endure such 
spiritual vehemence, and of the weakening of the imagination. 
I know this happens to some people, I should think it a good 
idea for them to force themselves to give up prayer and to take 
it up again later, at some time when they have leisure, for if they try 
to pray while in that state they may come to great harm. And I 
have experience of this and of the wisdom of considering what 
our health can bear. 

In all this we need experience and a director; for, when the soul 
has reached this stage, many things will occur which it will need 
to discuss with someone. Yet, if it seeks such a person unsuccessfully, 
the Lord will not fail it, for, even though I am what I am, He 
has not failed me. I believe there are few who have acquired 
experience of all these things, and without experience it is useless 
to attempt to bring a soul relief one will bring it only disquiet 
and distress. This the Lord will also take into account, for which 
reason it is better, as I have said on other occasions, to discuss 
the matter with one's confessor. All that I am saying now I have 
said already, but I do not remember it very well, and I am sure 
the relations of penitent and confessor, and the type of confessor 
to be chosen, are very important matters, especially to women. 
The Lord gives these favours far more to women than to men: 
I have heard the saintly Fray Peter of Alcantara say that, and I 
have also observed it myself. He would say that women made, 
much more progress on this road than men, and gave excellent 
reasons for this, which there is no point in my repeating here, all 
in favour of women. 

Once, when I was in prayer, I saw, for a very brief time and 
without any distinctness of form, but with perfect clarity, how all 
things are seen in God and how within Himself He contains them 

1 The quotation is taken from Chap. XXXI of the apocryphal Soliloquies, often 
published in Latin under the name of St. Augustine, and, in Spanish, at Valladolid, 
in 1515. 

294 LIFE [CHAP. 

all. Describe this I cannot, but the vision remained firmly im- 
printed upon my soul and is one of those great favours which the 
Lord has granted me and which, when I remember the sins I have 
committed,, cause me the greatest confusion and shame. I believe, 
if it had been the Lord's will for me to have seen this vision earlier, 
and if it had been seen by those who offend Him, they would have 
neither the heart nor the presumption to do so. I cannot say with 
certainty that I saw nothing, for, as I am able to make this com- 
parison, something must have been visible to me; but the vision 
comes in so subtle and delicate a way that the understanding 
cannot grasp it. Or it may be that I cannot understand these 
visions, which do not seem to be imaginary, though there must be 
an imaginary element in some of them; but, as they take place 
during raptures, the faculties are unable, after the rapture is 
over, to form the picture which the Lord has revealed to them 
and in which it is His will that they should rejoice. 

Let us say that the Godhead is like a very clear diamond, much 
larger than the whole world, or a mirror, like that which sym- 
bolized the soul in my account of an earlier vision, except that it is 
of a far sublimer kind, to which I cannot do justice. Let us suppose, 
furthermore, that all we do is seen in this diamond, which is 
of such a kind that it contains everything within itself, because 
there is nothing capable of falling outside such greatness. It was 
a terrifying experience for me, in so short a space of time, to see so 
many things at once in the clear depths of that diamond, and 
whenever I think of it, it is a most piteous reflection, that so many 
foul things, like my sins, should have been pictured in that clearness 
and purity. So, whenever I remember this, I do not know how to 
bear it and at that time I felt so ashamed that I did not seem to 
know where to hide myself. Oh, that someone could reveal this 
to those who commit the most foul and dishonourable sins and 
could make them realize that their sins are not hidden; that, 
committed as they are in His Majesty's own presence, God justly 
grieves for them; and that we are behaving in His sight with the 
greatest irreverence! I saw how truly one single rtiortal sin merits 
hell; it is impossible to understand how grave an offence it is to 
commit such a sin in the sight of such great Majesty and how 
alienated such things are from His nature. And thus His mercy 
becomes ever the more clearly seen, for, though He knows that we 
are doing all this, He none the less bears with us. 

This has also made me wonder, if one such experience as this 
leaves the soul so terrified, what the Judgment pay will be like, 
when His Majesty will reveal Himself to us clearly and we shall 
see the offences we have committed. Oh, God help me, how 
blind I have been! I have often been amazed at what I have 

XL] LIFE 295 

written, but Your Reverence must not be amazed except at my 
being still alive when I see these things and consider what I am. 
May He Who has borne with me for so long be blessed for ever. 

Once when I was in prayer, and deep in recollection, sweetness 
and quiet, I thought I was surrounded by angels and very near 
to God. I began to entreat His Majesty for the Church. I was 
shown what a great benefit would be conferred upon it in the latter 
days by one of the Orders and by the fortitude with which its 
members would uphold the Faith. x 

Once when I was praying before the Most Holy Sacrament 
there appeared to me a holy man whose Order had been to some 
extent in a state of decline. In his hands he was holding a large 
book; he opened this and told me to read a few words which 
were in large and very legible print. "In the times to come," 
they said, "this Order will flourish; it will have many martyrs." 2 

On another occasion when I was at Matins in choir, I saw in 
front of me the figures of six or seven members of this same Order, 
with swords in their hands. I take this to mean that they are to 
defend the Faith. For at another time, when I was in prayer, my 
spirit was carried away and I thought I was in a great field where 
many people were fighting and the members of this Order were 
doing battle with great fervour. They had lovely faces, quite 
lit up with zeal; many were vanquished and laid low by them; 
others were killed. This, I thought, was a battle against the 

I have seen this glorious Saint several times and he has told 
me various things and thanked me for praying for his Order and 
promised to commend me to the Lord. I do not name these 
Orders. If the Lord wishes it to be known which they are, He 
will make it clear, and in that case the rest will not be offended. 
Each Order, and every individual member of an Order, should 
strive that the Lord may use it and him to bless it so that it may 
serve Him in the Church's present great necessity. Blessed are 
the lives which are spent in, doing this. 

I was once asked by someone to beg God to tell him if he would 
be serving Him by accepting 9, bishopric, 3 And after Com-> 

1 Ribera (Bk. IV, Chap. V) thinks that the Society of Jesus is meant, but Qracian, 
in his notes, has " the Order of St. Dominic". 

2 This, too, according to Gracian's annotation, refers to the Order of St. Dominic. 
Ribera agrees here. Yepes (Bk. JJI, Chap. XVII) says: "For certain honourable 
motives the holy Mother refrained from naming this Order; but I know that she is 
speaking of the new Reform which she founded." A number of Carmelite writers 
take this view, but P. Silverio inclines to agree with Graciin and Ribera. [So do I: 
the language of the following paragraphs suggests the Qrder of Preachers certainly 
not tie Djscaked Carmelites ] 

3 This, says Graaan, was the Inquisitor Soto, who later became Bishop of Sala- 

296 LIFE [CHAP. 

munion the Lord said to me: "When he has quite clearly and 
truly realized that true dominion consists in possessing nothing, 
then he may take it." By this He meant that anyone who is to 
hold a position of authority should be very far from desiring or 
wishing for one, or at least from trying to obtain one. 

These and many other favours the Lord has granted this sinner 
and still grants her continually. But there is no need, I think, for 
me to describe any more of them, for from what I have said can 
be gathered what progress my soul is making and how much 
spirituality the Lord has given me. Blessed be He for ever, Who 
has had so much care for me ! 

Once He told me, by way of consolation, not to worry and 
He said this very lovingly for in this life we could not always be 
in the same condition. Sometimes I should be fervent and at 
other times not; sometimes I should be restless and at other 
times, in spite of temptations, I should be tranquil. But I was 
to hope in Him and not to be afraid. 

One day I was wondering if I was too much attached to the 
world because I was happy when I was with the people to whom 
I speak about my soul and had an affection for them, and because, 
when I see that anyone is a great servant of God, I always find 
comfort in his company. And the Lord told me that if a sick man 
had been at death's door, and attributed his recovery to a phy- 
sician, it would be no virtue in him to fail to thank him and not 
to love him. What would have become of me, He continued, but 
for these people? The conversation of good people never did 
any harm, and provided my conversation was always carefully 
considered and virtuous I should not cease mixing with them, 
and I should find that they would do me good rather than harm. 
This comforted me a great deal, for I used sometimes to think 
myself over-attached to them and would want to have nothing to 
do with them at all. The Lord would always give me counsel 
about everything, even to the point of telling me how I must 
deal with people who were weak and with certain others. He never 
fails to look after me; sometimes I am distressed when I see of 
how little use I am in His service and how I am obliged to spend 
so much more time than I should like in a body as weak and 
miserable as mine is. 

Once, when the time came for me to go to bed, I was in prayer, 
and I was suffering very great pain and beginning to experience 
my usual sickness. Seeing how tied I was to my body, yet how, 
on the other hand, my spirit craved time for itself, I became so 
depressed that I started to shed floods of tears and to be in great 
distress. This happened not only once but, as I say, often: it 
seemed to make me exasoerated with mv<;plf 

XL] LIFE 297 

that happens I regard myself with abhorrence. But as a general 
rule I do not think I regard myself so, nor do I fail to do anything 
I see to be necessary for me. Please God I do not often do more 
than is essential, though sometimes I am bound to. On this 
occasion, as I say, when I was so distressed, the Lord appeared 
to me and comforted me a great deal and said I was to do these 
things for love of Him and to put up with everything, for my life 
was necessary now. I think I have never found myself distressed 
since I resolved to serve this Lord and Comforter of mine with all 
my might; for, though He would let me suffer a little, He would 
comfort me in such a way that it is nothing to me to desire trials. 
So there seems to me now to be no other reason for living than 
this, and it is for this that I pray to God most earnestly. I some- 
times say to Him with my whole will : "To die, Lord, or to suffer ! 
I ask nothing else of Thee for myself but this." It comforts me 
to hear a clock strike, for when I find that another hour of life 
has passed away, I seem to be getting a little nearer to the vision 
of God. 

At other times I am in a state in which I do not feel I am 
alive and yet I do not seem to want to die 1 : as I have said is 
frequently the case, I experience a kind of lukewarmness and 
everything is dark as a result of the great trials I am suffering. 
When the Lord was pleased that these favours which His 
Majesty is granting me should become publicly known (which 
He told me some years ago would happen), I was greatly 
troubled, and, as Your Reverence knows, it has caused me no 
little suffering down to this very day, for everyone interprets 
them as he likes. It has been a comfort to me that they have 
become known through no fault of mine, for I have been very 
careful, and at great pains, never to talk about them except to 
my confessors and to people to whom I have known that my 
confessors have spoken about them: this I have done, not from 
humility, but because it has distressed me to speak of them even 
to my confessors. Now, however, though, out of a zeal for 
righteousness, people may t speak very ill of me, and others are 
afraid to have anything to do with me or to hear my confessions, 
while still others say all kinds of things to my face, I care about it 
glory be to God! very little; for I believe the Lord has chosen 
this means of helping many souls, and I know quite well how 
much the Lord Himself would suffer for the sake of just one soul: 
I often call that to mind. I dp not know if it is for that reason 
that His Majesty has put me in this little corner 2 , where I live 

1 [Or "in which I am not sorry I am alive, nor do I seem to want to die.** But the 
context, I think, favours the rendering given in the text.] 
a St. Joseph's, Avila. 

298 LIFE [CHAP. 

in such strict enclosure, and where I am so much like a dead 
thing that I once thought nobody would ever remember me again. 
But this has not been so to the extent that I should like, as there 
are certain people to whom I am obliged to speak. Still, I am 
not in a place where I can be seen, so the Lord seems to have 
been pleased at last to bring me to a haven, which I hope in His 
Majesty will be a safe one. 

As I am now out of the world, and my companions are few and 
saintly, I look down upon the world as from above and care 
very little what people say or what is known about me. I care 
more about the smallest degree of progress achieved by one^single 
soul than for all the things that people may say about me; 
for, since I have been here, it has been the Lord's will that this 
should become the aim of all my desires. He has given me a life 
which is a kind of sleep : when I see things, I nearly always seem 
to be dreaming them. In myself I find no great propensity either 
to joy or to sorrow. If anything produces either of these conditions 
in me, it passes so quickly that I marvel, and the feeling it leaves 
is like the -feeling left by a dream. And it is really true that, if 
later I should want to be glad about that occasion of joy or to 
feel sad about that cause for sorrow, I am no more capable of 
doing so than is a sensible person of either grieving or glorying over 
anything he may have dreamed. My soul has been awakened 
by the Lord from a condition in which I used to feel as I did 
because I was neither mortified nor dead to the things of the 
world; and His Majesty will not let me become blind again. 

It is thus, dear Sir and Father 1 , that I live now. Your Reverence 
must beseech God either to take me to be with Him or to give 
me the means of serving Him. May it please His Majesty that 
what is written here may be of some profit to Your Reverence, 
for the little opportunity I have of writing has made it a laborious 
task for me. But the task will be a happy one if I have managed 
to say anything for which one single act of praise will be made 
to the Lord. This alone would make me feel rewarded, even were 
Your Reverence then to burn what I have written immediately. 

I should prefer it not to be burned, however, before it has been 
seen by the three persons, known to Your Reverence, who are or 
have been my confessors; 2 for, if it is bad, it would be well that 
they should lose the good opinion they have of me, and, if it is 
good, they are virtuous and learned men and I know they will 
recognize whence it comes and praise Him Who said it through 
me. May His Majesty ever keep Your Reverence in His hand 

* P. Garcia de Toledo. [On the form "Sir", see p. 139, n. i, above.] 

* Two of these would be PP. Bdnez and Garcia de Toledo. The identity of the third 
cannot be given for certain. 

XL] LIFE 299 

and make you so great a saint that your spirituality and light 
may enlighten this miserable creature, so lacking in humility and 
so presumptuous as to have dared to resolve to write upon subjects 
so sublime. May it please the Lord that I may not have erred 
in this, for my intention and desire have been to be accurate 
and obedient and I have hoped that through me some praise 
might be given to the Lord, a thing for which I have prayed 
for many years. And as no works which I have performed 
can accomplish this, I have ventured to put together this story 
of my unruly life, though I have wasted no more time or trouble 
on it than has been necessary for the writing of it, but have merely 
set down what has happened to me with all the simplicity and 
truth at my command. 

May it please the Lord, since He is powerful and can do what 
He will, that I may succeed in doing His will in all things, and 
may He not allow this soul to be lost which so often, by so many 
methods and devices, His Majesty has rescued from hell and 
drawn to Himself. Amen. 


I. H. S. 

May the Holy Spirit be ever with Your Reverence. Amen. 
It would not be a bad idea if I were to exaggerate the importance 
of this task of mine to Your Reverence so as to impose upon 
you the obligation to commend me earnestly to Our Lord, as 
well I might after what I have suffered through finding that I 
have written about so gnany of n\y miserable deeds and have 
thus called attention to them; though I can truly say I have felt 
more keenly having to write of the favours which the L6rd has 
bestowed upon me than of the offences which I have committed 
against His Majesty. I have done what Your Reverence com- 
manded me, and written at length, on the condition that Your 
Reverence will do" as you promised me and tear up anything that 
seems to you wrong. I had not finished reading through what I 
had written when Your Reverence sent for it. Some things in 
it may be badly explained and others set down twice, for I have 
had so little time that I have been unable to re-read all that I 
have written. I beseech Your Reverence to amend it,, and, if it is 
to be sent to Father-Master Avila, to have it copied, for otherwise 
someone might recognize the handwriting. 

1 This letter is found in the autograph, at the end of the last chapter. It was prob-- 
ably written to P. Garcia de Toledo. [But see p. 5, above. The heading is not, 
of course, in the original.] 

300 LIFE 

I am most anxious that the order shall be given for him to see 
it, as it was with this intention that I began to write it; and, if 
he thinks I am on the right road, this will be a great comfort to 
me, for I can only do what lies in my power. Your Reverence 
must act in everything as you think best and realize your obliga- 
tions to one who thus entrusts you with her soul. 

I shall commend Your Reverence's soul to Our Lord all my 
life long. Be assiduous, therefore, in serving His Majesty, so as 
to help me, for Your Reverence will see from what I have written 
here how well we use our time if we do as Your Reverence has 
begun to do and give ourselves wholly to Him Who gives Himself 
to us without measure. 

May He be blessed for ever, and I trust in His mercy that 
Your Reverence and I shall see each other in a place where we 
shall realize more clearly what great things He has done for us 
and praise Him for ever and ever. Amen. 

This book was ended in June of the year MDLXII. 1 

1 P. Banez appends the following note "This date is to be understood as referring 
to the first draft of the Life, before it was rewritten and divided into chapters. To 
this version Mother Teresa of Jesus added many things which happened after this 
date, such as the foundation of the convent of St. Joseph, Avila. ..." 





In her Life, as we have seen, St. Teresa lays particular stress 
upon the state of her soul and the great favours which she has 
received from God. In her extreme humility she makes much 
of her faults and seems unable to understand how such signal 
gifts can possibly be granted to anyone so wicked. Hence spring 
those constant self-questionings which accompany her almost 
to the grave, and hence, too, springs her constant desire to reveal 
her spiritual experiences to the holiest and most saintly men of 
her time. Her autobiography covers almost exactly the first 
fifty years of her life, but for sixteen years more she received 
continual favours from Heaven, and so she wrote further 
accounts of her spiritual experiences for submission to the judg- 
ment of her confessors. These are known as the Spiritual Relations, 
and they may be considered as a sequel to her Life : both works, 
with the simplicity of truth itself, lay bare the interior of her 

This essential continuity was manifest to Fray Luis de Leon, 
who issued as an appendix to the Life such of the Relations as 
were in his possession. Later editors, however, have dealt 
variously with them, often distributing them, according to 
their dates, among the Letters, and thus completely destroying 
their cumulative effect and their unity. Many, too, they 
omitted and others they printed in an incomplete or mutilated 

Those published in this volume extend from 1560 to very 
shortly before her death in 1582. Five of them are addressed 
to her confessors. The first, which begins: "My present method 
of procedure in prayer is this," is thought to have been written 
to St. Peter of Alcantara, though the Saint herself appears to 
contradict this view by saying that she gave it to her confessor, 
who made an exact copy of it and discussed it with other theo- 
logians, among whom was P. Mancio. 1 The inference from this 
observation would be that the Relation was addressed to P. 
Ibdnez, who, as we know from Yepes 2 , did consult with P. 

1 Relations, III (p. 319, below). 
a Yepes. Pr6logo. 



Mancio over St. Teresa. Further, this Relation was written about 
the middle of 1560, a time at which its author was in constant 
touch with P. Ibanez. St. Peter of Alcantara, however, may well 
have read it, for he too was in close contact with her, and, as 
we know from the Life, they made an agreement together that 
she should apprise him of anything noteworthy which might 
happen to her, though he adjured her also to report everything 
to her confessor. 1 The probability, then, is that the Relation 
was addressed to P. Ibanez and its contents were communicated 
to the Franciscan Saint. 

The second Relation, a sequel to the first, was written, as we 
learn from its heading, rather more than a year later at the 
Toledo palace of Dona Luisa de la Cerda. As her friend P. Garcia 
de Toledo was in the city at that time, it is probable that he 
too saw it, and, as during the same period St. Peter of Alcantara 
came to Toledo, at Dona Luisa's invitation, to discuss the pro- 
jected Discalced Carmelite foundation, he may very well have 
seen it also. It was written, however, quite definitely, for P. 

Complementary to these two Relations is a third, which was 
written in the Convent of St. Joseph's, Avila, some nine months 
after the completion of the second, or near the beginning 
of the year 1563^ P. Jeronimo de San Jose believes that it was 
addressed to P. Garcia de Toledo 3 : this seems quite likely, 
unless the recipient were P. Domingo Banez. 

Ribera and Yepes, in their respective biographies of St. Teresa, 
were the first to publish these Relations. In 1615 they were 
reprinted by P. Tomas de Jesiis, 4 and later, by P. Jeronimo 
de San Jose and P. Francisco de Santa Maria. The first edition of 
the Saint's works in which they appeared was Moreto's Antwerp 
^edition of 1630; in later editions they were published as letters. 
Antonio de San Jose, in his notes to St. Teresa's letters published 
in the 1778 edition, says that the autographs of these Relations 
were to be found in the town of Bejar: their present whereabouts 
is unfortunately unknown. 

Of three further Relations, addressed by St. Teresa to her 
confessors, which have come down to us, two were written for 
P. Rodrigo Alvarez, S. J., and the third for Don Alonso Velazquez, 
Canon of Toledo, later Bishop of Osma. St Teresa had suffered 
a great deal in Seville, chiefly through the false accusations of 

iLife, Chap. XXX (p. 196, above). 

* [P. Silverio (II, xiu) says "at the Incarnation", but cf. p. 316, below. St. Teresa 
is believed to have left the Incarnation for St. Joseph's about March 1 563, if not earlier*] 

A Histona del Carmen Descalzo, Bk. V, Chap. VI, p. 807. 

* [SSM. II, 281-306.] 


a hysterical nun who, after plaguing the community in which she 
lived with her eccentricities and extravagances, left it and made 
the gravest accusations against it to the Inquisition. The greatest 
sufferer here was the Mother Foundress, and, as so often happened 
before, her spirit came out of the fiery trial newly purified. To 
examine her the Holy Office appointed P. Rodrigo Alvarez, 
widely known as a prudent and discreet director of souls, and the 
first of these two Relations was addressed to him in his official 
capacity. P. Alvarez completely vindicated her and the second 
of the Relations was written to him in his private capacity as a 
spiritual director. 

In the earlier of the two, St. Teresa writes in the third person 
and enumerates many of her spiritual directors. After writing it, 
she made another copy of it, with slight variations. That used 
by Ribera, who says (Bk. I, Chap. VII) that he had the auto- 
graph before him, is found in the Avila and Toledo codices; 
the other, which belongs to the Discalced Carmelite Friars of 
Viterbo, in Italy, and has never previously been published in a 
Spanish edition of St. Teresa's works, is followed here. It appears 
to have been the original draft and is clearly preferable to what 
are only copies, however good, of the second redaction. Of the 
second Relation addressed to P. Alvarez the original is lost and 
we have to rely on a number of contemporary copies. 

The last of these Relations addressed to confessors was written 
in May 1581, when St. Teresa was busy with her foundation 
at Palencia. It was written for her great friend Dr. Velazquez, 
Bishop of Osma, who had been her confessor at Toledo and to 
whom she refers in her letters in the highest terms. The Bishop 
in his turn thought highly of the Mother Foundress, and, wishing 
to have one of her reformed convents in his diocese, had written 
to her on the subject. Before leaving for this purpose, she wrote 
this account of her spiritual state in what may < be considered 
the last revelation of her soul that she ever gave. It was first 
published in 1647 and until now has always been included among 
the Letters. Two considerable fragments of the autograph are 
preserved in the Discalced Carmelite Convent of St. Anne, in 

Besides these Relations there exist numerous shorter ones, 
many of them written after Communion. Some may well have 
been parts of reports, either never completed or subsequently lost, 
jvritten for her confessors; a good many contain allusions to her 
friends and acquaintances, pre-eminent among whom is P. 
Jerdnimo Gracian. It is noteworthy that most of the Relations 
were written either before 1562 or after 1571 : the reason may be 
quoted from Maria de San Jose, who writes as follows : 


When the convent [of St. Joseph, Avila] had been founded 
and everything was settled in a clear and straightforward 
way, the Mother . . . was happy and had no wish to go on 
writing of the many wonders which the Lord revealed to her, 
until subsequently Our Lord commanded her to do so and she 
began to describe other of her revelations in a little book 
(cuademito] which begins: "The year fifteen hundred and 
seventy-one." 1 

The cuadernito in which St. Teresa wrote her records after this 
date has long since disappeared, though some of her own nuns 
refer to having seen it or had it in their hands. Ribera, it appears, 
also handled it. Other of the shorter Relations were copied at 
first hand by her early biographers: we shall indicate in foot- 
notes which of these autographs still remain. 

La Fuente's edition of the Relations^ though far from satisfactory 
whether as regards the text or the notes, was the fullest that had 
appeared down to his day. It was based, as any such edition must 
be, upon two codices, which are preserved in the convents of 
Discalced Carmelites in Avila and Toledo. The Avila codex 
is a quarto volume containing other documents than the Relations 
copied by different hands. The manuscript is approximately 
contemporary with St. Teresa. The hand seems to be that of 
Ana de San Pedro, who professed at St. Joseph's, Avila, in 1571, 
and died in 1588; it is exceptionally clear, and the probability 
is that the Mother Foundress herself employed this nun as a copyist. 
The copy is a most reliable one and is the basis of all the Relations 
in this edition of which there is no extant autograph. The 
second important copy of the Relations is to be found in a codex 
belonging to the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Toledo, following 
a manuscript copy of the Foundations. The hand is an excellent 
one contemporary with that of the Avila codex and the copy is 
equally complete, though rather less faithful, alterations being 
made sometimes for theological and sometimes for orthographical 
reasons, and sometimes, too, I suspect, with an eye to literary 
style. A number of paragraphs are omitted, presumably because 
the copyist, who was clearly a person of culture and a theologian, 
did not approve of them. 

A number of other copies exist: one, in the National Library 
of Spain, was made under the direction of P. Andres de la 
Encarnacion for the General Archives of the Discalced Carmelites; 
another, belonging to the Carmelite nuns of Salamanca, seems to 
be in the handwriting of the Saint's niece, Teresita 3 and contains 

11 Rtcreocidn ociova. 


thirty-eight Relations; in the library of the Royal Academy 
of History, too, there exists a copy of the Foundations, at the end 
of which come a number of Relations, transcribed in the hand of 
P. Ribera. For the Relations which refer to P. Gracian there are 
other sources the authenticity of which is beyond dispute. The 
chief of these is a sworn copy witnessed by [an Apostolic Notary, 
Juan Vazquez del Marmol, and dated September 30, 1603, 
which is in the possession of the Discalced Carmelite Friars of 
Avila. Other copies will be referred to in footnotes to the text. 
The order followed in this edition is, so far as possible, that 
in which the documents were, not written, but received. Of some 
the ex;act dates are known; those of others are difficult to deter- 
mine. Excellent work has been done here by the Carmelite 
nuns of Paris in their well-known edition of St. Teresa's writings. 
In the interests of clarity we give, first of all, the Relations 
addressed to the Saint's confessors and then the accounts of 
Divine favours written in note-books or on separate sheets of 
paper. La Fuente, in our view, is quite wrong to call the work 
the "Book of the Relations": it is in no sense a book, but the 
appendix to an autobiography, covering chiefly the years not 
represented in it. 





From the Convent of the Incarnation, Avila, in the year isGo. 1 


My present method of procedure in prayer is this. Only 
seldom, when I am in prayer, can I reason with the under- 
standing, because my soul at once becomes recollected and 
I enter the state of quiet or that of rapture, so that I can use 
none of my faculties and senses. Of these last only the sense of 
hearing is of any help to me; and even then, although I can hear, 
I cannot understand anything. 

It often happens that, when I am not trying to think of the 
things of God, but am occupied in other things, and when, 
however much I endeavour to pray, I seem unable to do so 
because of great aridity, together with bodily pains, this recol- 
lection and elevation of the spirit comes upon me so quickly 
that I can do nothing to check it, and in a moment I find myself 
experiencing the effects and benefits which it brings with it. And 
this happens without my having had any vision, or taken in anything 
with the mind, or realized where I am, save that, when I have 
thought the soul to be lost, I have found that it is enjoying great 
benefits. And such are these that, even if I tried for a whole year, I 
do not think that I could possibly produce them by my own efforts. 

At other times there come to me very strong impulses, and 
in its desire for God my soul faints away in a manner which I 
cannot resist. 'It seems as if my life is about to end, and this 
makes me cry aloud and call upon God : this comes upon me with 
great vehemence. Sometimes it makes me so restless that I 
cannot remain seated and this trouble attacks me without my 
having done anything to bring it on : it is of such a kind that 
my soul would like never to be free from it for as long as I 
live. For my yearnings not to live, even while I seem to be living, 
there can be no relief: the only relief for them is the vision of 
God, which comes through death, and this I cannot obtain of 
Him. So it seems to my soul that all creatures save itself are full 
of consolations and that all save itself can find relief for their 

1 For particulars of this Relation, see pp. 301-2, above. 


trials. And the oppression which this causes is such that, if 
the Lord did not relieve it by means of some rapture, in 
which everything is stilled, and the soul is left in a state of 
great quiet and deep satisfaction, sometimes by seeing some- 
thing of what it desires and at other times by hearing such 
things, it would seem to be impossible for it to escape from that 

At times, again, there come to me desires to serve God with 
impulses so strong that I cannot describe them, and with a distress 
caused by my realization of my own unprofitableness. I think 
then that there is no trial that could present itself to me, or any- 
thing else, not even death or martyrdom, which I could not easily 
suffer. This, too, is a feeling which comes, not as the result of 
reflection, but in a moment: it completely transforms me and I 
have no idea whence I draw so much courage. I think I should 
like to cry aloud, and tell everyone how important it is for them 
not to be contented with just a little and how many blessings there 
are which God will give us if we prepare to receive them. These 
desires, I repeat, are such that they make me melt inwardly, 
because I seem to be wanting what I cannot have. My body 
seems to hold me bound, so that there is no way in which I can 
serve God and my religious profession. Were it not for my body, 
I should do quite outstanding things, in so far as my strength 
would allow. When I see myself, therefore, deprived of power to 
serve God, I feel distressed in a way which I cannot describe, 
but in the end I experience joy and recollection and consolation 
from God. 

At other times it has happened that, when these longings 
to serve Him come upon me, I want to do penance, but,am not 
able. Penance would be a great relief to me, and is in fact a 
relief and a joy, although my physical weakness is such that my 
penances are hardly anything. Still, if I allowed myself to 
indulge these desires, I think they would be excessive. 

Sometimes the necessity of intercourse with others causes me 
great distress and afflicts me so sorely that it makes me shed 
floods of tears. For all my yearning is to be alone; and, although 
sometimes I am unable to pray or read, solitude comforts me, 
conversation, especially that of relatives and kinsfolk, seems 
oppressive to me, and I feel I am in great danger except among 
people with whom I can speak of prayer and of the soul. From 
people of this kind I derive comfort and delight, though some- 
times they cloy and I want to see no more of them but to go away 
where I can be alone. This, however, happens seldom, for I 
always find those to whom I speak of my conscience a particular 


At other times I become greatly distressed at having to eat 
and sleep, and at finding that I am less able than most people 
to forgo doing so. I eat and sleep, therefore, in order to serve 
God and as an offering made to Him. All time seems to me short, 
for I have not enough of it for prayer and I should never tire of 
being alone. I am always wanting to have time for reading, 
of which I am very fond. I read very little; for, when I take up 
a book, it gives me such pleasure that I become recollected and so 
my reading is turned into prayer. But this happens seldom, for 
I have many occupations, and good ones at that. Yet they do 
not give me the same pleasure as reading; and so I am always 
wanting more time, which, I think, makes everything seem very 
dull to me, when I find that I cannot get what I desire and long 

All these desires, together with an increase of virtue, have 
been given me by Our Lord since He granted me this Prayer of 
Quiet and these raptures. I find myself so much better than I 
was that I feel as if I must previously have been a lost creature. 
These raptures and visions produce in me the benefits that I 
shall now describe, and I hold that, if there is anything good in 
me, it is they that have been the source of it. I have become 
most firmly resolved not to commit even a venial offence against 
God and I would rather die a thousand deaths than commit one 
with the knowledge that I was doing so. I have made a resolution 
to leave 1 nothing undone which I think will tend to greater 
perfection and which would be rendering a greater service to 
Our Lord; if I am told that this is the case with anything, and 
am directed to do- it, by him who has the care of my soul, I would 
not fail to obey, whatever the pain it might cost me, for all the 
treasure in existence. If I acted otherwise, I do not think I 
should have the face to ask anything 6f God our Lord, or to 
practise prayer, although I do all this with many faults and 
imperfections. I render obedience, however imperfectly, to my 
confessor; and if I realize that he wants me to do something, 
or if he orders me to do it, I do not think I am likely to fail; 
if I did, I should think I was going far astray. 

I have a desire for poverty, though this, too, is imperfect; 
but I do not believe that, even if I had great wealth, I should 
keep any private income or hoard up money for myself alone, for 
I have no interest in such things : I should only want what was 
necessary for me. But, none the less, I am afraid I am very 
deficient in this virtue, for, although I want nothing for myself 
either a regular income or anything else I should like to have 
money to give away. 

Almost all the visions that I have had have been beneficial 


to me, unless I am being deceived by the devil : in this matter I 
follow the judgment of my confessors. 

When. I see any rich or beautiful thing, such as water, fields, or 
flowers, smell perfumes or hear music, I think I should prefer not 
to see or hear them, for they are so different from what I 
am accustomed to that all desire for them leaves me. Hence 
I have come to care so little for such things that, except at first, 
I never think of them, and look upon them as so much rubbish. 

If, as may be unavoidable, I talk or hold intercourse with 
worldly people, even about things relating to prayer, and if I 
do this unnecessarily or at any length, even for the sake of passing 
the time, I have to keep forcing myself to do it, for it causes me 
great distress. Amusements and worldly things, of which I used 
to be fond, are all unpleasant to me: I can no longer look at them. 

These desires, which I said I have, to love and serve God, and 
to see Him, are not increased by meditations, as they used to be 
once, when I thought I was very devout and shed many tears. 
They are accompanied by such excessive enkindlement and 
fervour that, I repeat, if God did not grant me relief through 
an occasional rapture, in which my soul seems to find satisfaction, 
I believe they would be sufficient to bring my life very quickly 
to an end. 

When I see people making great progress, and being resolute 
and detached and courageous, I conceive a great love for them 
and' should be glad if I could see more of them: I think they are 
a help to me. People whom I see to be timid and who appear 
to be making half-hearted attempts to do things which so far 
as human reason can judge they can do perfectly well seem to 
distress me and make me pray to God for them and to the saints 
who accomplished these very things which now frighten us. 
Not that I am good for anything, but I believe that God helps 
those who set out to do great things for His sake and never fails 
those who trust in Him alone. And I should like to find someone 
who would help me to believe this to be so, and to have no 
anxiety about what I am to eat and to put on, but to leave it to 

It is not to be understood that this leaving of my needs to God 
precludes me from trying to obtain them for myself; it precludes 
only anxiety I mean, anxiety on my part. And now that God 
has given me this freedom, I get on well in this respect and try 
-as far as possible to forget myself. I do not think a year can have 
passed since Our Lord gave it me. 

As far as I know glory be to God ! I am free from vainglory, 1 

1 [Lit : "Vainglory, glory to Crod, as far as I know, there is no reason to have it." 
I thiak the repetition of "glory" is intentional and emphatic.] 


and there is no reason why I should have any, for I see clearly 
that no credit belongs to me for the things given me by God. 
In fact, God makes me conscious of my own wretchedness; 
and, however much I gave my mind to it, I do not think I could 
ever become aware of as many truths as I now learn in a short 
period of time. 

When I speak of these experiences, a few days after they happen, 
they seem to me like those of another person. Previously, I 
used sometimes to think that any who knew they had happened 
to me were doing me a wrong, but now it seems that I am no 
better for them, but worse, since I receive so many favours yet 
profit by them so little. I am sure that nowhere in the world has 
there ever been a worse person than myself; the virtues of others 
seem to me much more praiseworthy than my own, for I do 
nothing but receive favours, whereas others will receive from God 
all at once what He is being pleased to give me here. I beg 
Him that it may not be His will to keep rewarding me in this 
life, but I believe that He has led me by this road because I am 
weak and wicked. 

When I am in prayer, and in fact at almost any time when 
I am able to reflect a little, I cannot ask or desire God to give me 
rest, and I could not even if I tried; for I see that throughout His 
own life He was never without trials, and these I beg Him to 
give me, if He first gives me grace to bear them. 

Everything of this kind, and things of the most sublime per- 
fection, seem to be so deeply impressed upon me in prayer that 
I am amazed when I see so many and such evident truths and 
they make worldly things seem to me folly; and so I have to be 
very careful when I think what I used to be like with regard 
to worldly things, for it seems to me folly to be grieved by deaths 
or by the trials of this world or, at least, to allow one's grief or 
love for relatives or friends to persist for a very long time. As I 
say, I have to go very carefully when I consider the kind of 
person I was and the way I used to feel these things. 

If I see people do things which seem clearly to be sins, I cannot 
feel sure that they have offended God, and if I stop and reflect 
upon the matter, which I hardly ever do, I have never been 
able to feel sure of this, however clearly I have seen it. It has always 
seemed to me that everyone is as careful about serving God as I 
am. And herein God has been very gracious to me, for I never 
dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to 
remember it afterwards; if I do remember it, I always see some 
other virtue in that person. So, except in a general way, these 
things never worry me, though heresies often distress me, and when 
I think of them they almost always seem to me the only kiryi of 


trial that should give cause for affliction. And I am also grieved 
if I see people who used to practise prayer suffering a relapse: 
this troubles me, though not seriously, because I try not to dwell 
upon it. I am also much freer from fastidiousness than I used 
to be, though I am not wholly so, for I do not find that I am 
always mortified in this respect, though I sometimes am. 

All this that I have described is, so far as I can understand, 
what normally takes place in my soul: to it must be added that * 
my thought is continually fixed upon God. And even when I 
am occupied with other matters, without wishing to be so, as I 
say, I do not understand who it is that awakens me. This is not 
always the case, but only when I am engaged in matters of 
importance; which glory be to God! demand my attention 
only occasionally, and not always. 

Sometimes, though not often, for perhaps three, four or five 
days on end, I feel as if all good thoughts and fervent impulses 
and visions are leaving me, and are even vanishing from my 
memory, so that I cannot recall anything good that there has 
ever been in me even if I wish. Everything seems like a drearn 
or, at least, I can remember nothing of it. 'And in addition to 
all this I am oppressed by bodily pains: my understanding is 
troubled, so that I cannot think in. the very least about God 
and have no idea under what law I am living. If I read, I can- 
not understand what I am reading; I seem to be full of faults 
and am not courageous enough to be virtuous, and the courage 
of which I used to have plenty has sunk so low that I feel I should 
be unable to resist the smallest of the temptations or slanders of 
the world. At such a time I get the idea that if I am to be 
employed for anything beyond the most ordinary matters I shall 
be useless. I grow sad, thinking I have deceived everyone who 
has any belief in me; I want to be able to hide myself where 
nobody can see me; and my desire for solitude is the result, 
no longer of virtue, but of pusillanimity. I feel that I should 
like to quarrel with all who oppose me; and I cannot escape 
from this conflict, but God grants me the